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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Pradnya On How Prayas Helped A Woman Come Out Of The Trauma Of Being Falsely Accused Of Murder

  • IWB Post
  •  August 18, 2018

Imagine the compassion that it takes to selflessly work for the betterment of others for almost a quarter of a century without expecting anything in return. That’s Pradnya for you!

Pradnya has been working as a social worker with Prayas (a TISS Field Action Project dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable groups coming in contact with the criminal justice system) for 26 years now.

Talking to her you are sure to realise that there remains much more that this zealous woman aspires to do. When she talks of the problems of her clients, it is as if the pain and the fight are her own. In fact, that is what she has been doing, she is fighting against a gendered society which forgives its men way more easily than its women.

While most women prisoners that Prayas deals with end up in prisons owing to a variety of circumstances, there are instances when they get trapped and are accused of crimes not even committed by them and fall prey to a faulty system. However, even if these women get a clean chit from the court after a while and get acquitted, the trauma and the social stigma damage keep haunting them.

Pradnya shares with me a similar case, where the accused, Aneeta (name changed to protect confidentiality) was falsely accused of attempting to murder her neighbour by setting her on fire. Pradnya shares, “She was charged under IPC 307, which made it an attempt to murder case. She had three daughters and her husband was unemployed. After she was imprisoned, he took up drinking too.”

She goes on, “When Prayas made a home visit to Aneeta’s place, we realised that the conditions at home were terrible. The children didn’t even have enough to eat. Thus, we decided to move them to a shelter home.”

Aneeta was acquitted from the case after three years. However, a lot of damage had been done by then. Despite all the criminal charges against her being dropped, she found it impossible to move back to the same area where she was living earlier. It was stigma and the fear of harassment by the victim’s family that made her really anxious about going back to the same place.

Also, despite having no means of earnings, Aneeta desperately wanted to get her children out of the shelter home and live with them. Prayas understood what she was going through and supported her in the same.

Pradnya says, “Aneeta told us that the family who had accused her of the crime would make it impossible for her to live there and would keep harassing her family. Clearly, moving back to her old place wasn’t an option anymore. Thus, Prayas helped her find a home on rent where she could live along with her family.”

Not only did Prayas help her find a home but also provided her with rations, helped her get financially independent and paid her rent till then.

Pradnya shares, “Right after Aneeta shifted to her new home, we began exploring employment options for her. This is when she expressed that she wanted to pursue all that she had learned about tailoring from her time in the prison. Thus, we decided to get her enrolled for a tailoring course.”

“After a while, we also managed to get sponsors for her sewing machine. Aneeta now works from home and performs basic tailoring jobs,” she adds.

While Aneeta was among those who managed to look beyond the injustice done to her and decided to take control, there are so many who are forever haunted by the stigma, which Pradnya feels is way more pronounced in the case of women as compared to men.

Gender bias is apparent when it comes to acceptance by families as well. Families accept men more easily than women after they have been to prison. While a man who has been to the prison might still have a shot at getting a second chance in life, the woman’s life is ruined beyond repair. Prayas aims to bridge this gap.

Pradnya accepts that owing to their circumstances and the trauma that these women have been through, it is not always easy to approach them or to help them understand your point of view. Thus, it is common to observe behavioral problems. Many a time, they are quite stubborn and want to chart their life as per their way or plans, which may not always work out. They find it difficult to trust the suggestions made by including social workers, often leading to differences of opinion in terms of how to work things out. In some cases, it could even lead to dropping out from the Prayas programme.

However, it doesn’t mean that there is no way of getting through them. “Of course, they are upset and traumatized by the injustice that has been done to them but they certainly understand it when you show genuine care. Once they realise that we are here to genuinely help them out,they start paying heed to the issues being brought to their notice,” says Pradnya.

She adds, “ While sometimes we try to make them understand with love, there indeed are instances when we need to draw a line about the direction and limits that Prayas is willing to go..”

Sometimes one mistake is all it takes to condemn you for life. But everyone deserves a second chance in life, especially when he/she is willing to mend their ways and live a life of dignity. We at IWB strongly believe that.

Thus, this Independence day, IWB is joining hands with Prayas in their fight for women prisoners where we are striving to reverse the mire of their mistakes and the stigma that has followed them and to help them live a life of dignity, where they embrace their independence, with their heads held high. 

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