[Women Achievers Series] Access to justice should be first understood by the family, then society and the local bodies: Dr Shashi Adhikari
Dr Shashi Adhikari is a Professor in Nepal Law Campus, who is involved with other non-government organizations as well. Most importantly, Adhikari is involved in enhancing the access of Nepali women to justice for more than two decades. She provides legal services to the deprived women and children who cannot fight for the justice on their own.
Serving the vulnerable women and children for free provides a great self-satisfaction to Adhikari, who studied law and found many gender discriminating provisions within the Nepali law itself. "When any woman gets into a trouble and needs a legal treatment, she is unable to pay the lawyer's fees by herself as she doesn’t have any income which made me realize that we should provide free legal services to such women and children," she sheds light on her work. She started the legal aid services and support considering the goal number 16 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – enhancing the access to justice.
It's unfortunate that many Nepali women don't have access to the legal or official documents like citizenship and face trouble in doing registration of necessary events like birth and death and in getting recommendation letters. Adhikari wants to facilitate the process and support those groups. Not limited to this, she is also actively engaged in providing justice to women in cases of rapes and domestic violence. She played an important role on bringing reforms in the justice system, particularly for women. The journey was not that easy for a female lawyer, she recalls, "Some 20 years ago, a case related to sexual harassment was registered at Kathmandu District Court. When we went to present our case, the defendants tried to harass the women lawyers, including myself. There are many such incidents." She still remembers a gang rape case dated back to some two decades ago, when the victim was made uncomfortable through unrelated questions and faced harassment by the lawyers of defendants. "We demanded camera monitoring system and asked to process such cases in closed court sessions. We intervened and tried to bring reforms and succeeded. Things are getting better gradually," Adhikari shares optimism in justice process.
She firmly believes that SDGs cannot be fulfilled without ensuring equal access to justice to women. She believes that initiatives should be started form the local bodies through their policies and programs, while the provincial and federal governments should give due consideration in their policies and programs as well. "Education, health, gender equality and access to justice should be first understood by the family, then society and the local bodies," she reflects the need of an hour.
Adhikari stresses on ensuring the encouraging women participation in every government institution. "Nepal has ensured 33 percent representation of women in the parliament. But there is no such provision in case of other government agencies. The provision should be applied to council of ministers, in judiciary, in legal sector and in all public platforms. It should have been written in the constitution itself," she raises the importance of women participation for the formation of an inclusive nation. She is confident that dedication and continuous effort can help Nepali women in achieving any target.