Where can a woman go for shelter if she wants to be away from her home?

The case of a woman who turned up for counselling on her 58th year and sought shelter at a home and a job as she was unhappy with her husband shook S. Selvagomathy. As the director of Justice Shivraj V. Patil Foundation for Socio-legal studies and Development, she swung into action because she realised women are prone to domestic violence at any age.

Says Selvagomathy, “Age is no bar for women to become victims of domestic violence.”

The revelation galvanised her into establishing a wing that would provide legal aid and counselling.

“Women tolerate hardships for many reasons. But at some point in time, they perhaps search for a place for some peace,” says Selvagomathy.

Of the 150 calls she received in three days from various districts, 90 per cent of them wanted a safe shelter.

Women who seek justice under Domestic Violence Act (DVA) are the worst sufferers.

“The Act orders for her protection, custody of children and other benefits like residence. But for various reasons, many women do not want to continue staying in the in-law’s house,” she notes.

Though DVA was introduced to expedite the process of finding a solution, many cases moved at a snail’s pace and in the intervening period women desperately required a self shelter home.

Madurai lacks adequate shelter homes for women. The Central Social Welfare Board-funded Vasuki Seva Nilayam (VSN) at Gomathipuram, is the only one giving shelter to girls and women who are victims of family disorganisation, sexual exploitation, dowry problem, poverty, martial disharmony, depression, love affair, pre-martial problem, psychological reasons and exploitation. The home has registered 86 cases from April to mid-July this year.

Selvagomathy dreams of establishing a centre similar to that of Family Justice Centres functioning in USA.

“I want to provide all facilities under one roof – medical assistance, legal aid, police wing, counselling facilities and shelter home with a crèche,” she says and notes as a first step towards this she set up the exclusive centre, which will also arrange shelter for the needy.

Free legal aid and counselling is available between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.on Saturdays at the centre located in SOCO Trust, K.K.Nagar. Women in need of help can call on 98434-60061.