Akanksha Sewa Sadan (ASS), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, has shared the impact of their association with CREA, as members of Ibtida and through CREA trainings on gender and patriarchy, and the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA). Members of the organisation said that they have gained immense self-confidence and courage because of the knowledge they acquired about the Act and the steps they could take if they or other women in the community faced domestic violence. Almost all the women said that the trainings have changed their traditional frame of thinking. They always considered violence as part of a woman’s destiny, which she can do little about and has to live with. They have now become more feminist and action-oriented in their approach—in their personal lives as well as in the community.
Nirala, a staff member, was part of a training being conducted by NIPCCD on gender, in which the resource person spoke about why sex work is “bad” and women who do this work need to be “rescued”. Nirala did not accept this viewpoint and shared that this may not be entirely true. She explained that many women “choose” this profession and also take decisions about who to accept and not accept as their clients. It is not always a case of complete powerlessness. She shared how ASS staff members had visited a sex workers collective in Chattarpur and seen how women take decisions. They are very confident; their names become the guardians’ names in all forms and applications; they decide whom and when to take clients—they are not always without any agency or power. When someone raised a question about the “legitimacy” of the relations with sex workers, she said, “We understood, in depth, about the issue of legitimacy. How can we call the child born to a sex worker illegitimate? For her, the relationship was a legitimate one. If the man left her, it is he who denied the relationship dignity. How can she and the relationship become illegitimate because of him?”
Bandana, another staff member, reported that after attending the Basic Training on Sexuality, Gender, and Rights in Hindi and Count Me IN! South Asia Conference on Violence Against Marginalised Women, she has an enhanced understanding of issues of people who have different sexual orientation. Bandana said that she has even been approached by a local family counselling centre run by the police to help them in counselling. Once, she received a call regarding a case where a couple had been married for two years, but had no physical relationship between them. The husband had not taken any initiative to build the relationship. So, the woman’s family filed a FIR with the police against the husband. No one from family counselling centre thought about talking to the husband’s family about this issue. After many counselling sessions with the woman and her family, Bandana decided to call and talk to the husband separately. After two or three sessions with him, she found out that husband was gay. He was not interested in women at all, but got married because of family pressure. He was in a very complicated situation, but was not ready disclose his sexual orientation to anyone. The case was solved. She helped both the families to understand the situation from a very different perspective. She feels that her understanding on sexuality helped her to solve this problem and help the woman who was forced to live in that married relationship.