These 2 lawyers are offering free legal aid to sexual abuse survivors in support of India’s #MeToo movement

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The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns in India have brought out many cases of sexual abuse, but the issue of delivering justice to victims still remains.

Tendering an apology does not undo the act of harassment. An apology may be treated as an admission on part of the accused. The victim can still press charges, and it does not dilute the case.

Rutuja Shinde, a civil lawyer from the Bombay High Court, said this in an interview with the Indian Women Blog, in support of the ongoing #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in India.

Over the last few days, several victims and survivors of sexual abuse and sexual harassment have come forward with their stories and unmasked perpetrators. What started with Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta accusing actor Nana Patekar and director Vivek Agnihotri of sexual misconduct has now become India’s very own #MeToo movement. Over 50 perpetrators have been named on Twitter within a week, resulting in investigations and inquiries.

But there still remains a legal gap between justice and victims. To bridge this, Mumbai-based lawyers Rutuja Shinde and Veera Mahuli have extended their legal support.

In an interview with The Better India, Veera said,

A lot of people have been questioning the credibility and justification of the movement, which came about precisely because of the lack of trust these women had in law enforcement. While it is important for their stories to be heard, I realised that they might be grappling with a lot of legal questions.

Now, Veera and Rutuja have been connecting victims with lawyers from their states, easing the process of taking legal action. Further, they will also offer pro bono legal advice.

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On what keeps a victim from filing a report, Veera says,

Lack of awareness and the stigma attached to filing such complaints are the primary reasons women refrain from filing complaints. With more information being made available on social media, better legal assistance and sensitisation towards victims has made it easier for women to come forward.

She adds that monetary limitations and lack of awareness of the recourse they have also prevent legal action. She says,

The way forward would be to create a kind of support system wherein there is a flow of information.

Here are three ways they can help.

  1. You can contact them for legal queries to file a complaint or FIR against your harasser(s). They will advise and connect you with another lawyer who will take the case forward.
  2. Rutuja told The Better India that she is open to taking cases of sexual harassment at workplace, and can advise you on how and where you can file a complaint.
  3. Rutuja and Veera can also help you if you receive any threats of “defamation” from your harasser (s) whose name has been made public.

Source: Yourstory

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