Many say that resolving the problems of others gave them satisfaction and self-confidence

Frowned upon by the society, Lakshmi (name changed) strived to shed the negative image of a sex worker she gained seven years ago. After she was rescued by a non-governmental organisation in 2007, the 40-year-old woman engaged herself in social service and worked towards rehabilitation of people involved in prostitution. Her efforts to secure social recognition for women like her have finally paid off.

Lauding her work, the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) has entrusted her with the task of offering legal assistance to aggrieved people. She is one of the two sex workers nominated by the DLSA to act as Para Legal Volunteer at a Free Legal Aid Clinic in the city. “It feels great when people address us (volunteers) as ‘madam.’ We’ve never been treated with so much respect. I feel proud to be part of the legal services authority. I thank my family for their support,” she said. Started in 2012, the legal aid movement in the district has received a boost from the para-legal volunteers whose determination to help the poor is yielding good results. They are also helping in the successful functioning of legal aid clinics that are accessible to those in need of assistance in drafting applications, filing petitions etc.

A total of 150 persons have been enrolled as para-legal volunteers with the DLSA for the year 2014. Two transgenders have also been appointed. A daily remuneration of Rs. 250 is paid to the volunteers.

Jecintha Martin, secretary, DLSA, told The Hindu that nearly 10 volunteers performed exceptionally well last year in facilitating settlement of disputes. The para-legal volunteers give legal assistance to HIV-positive people, victims of atrocities on women etc. Their job is not easy as they have to be aware of Acts like the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) about which people often hear but do not have basic knowledge. The interaction helps the volunteers get self-confidence, contacts, and most importantly a decent income, she added.

“This job has elevated my social status. I have resolved the problems of several people,” said S. Senthamarai (52), a para-legal volunteer. It is also a good source of income for people like me, she added. R. Suseela, another volunteer at the Collectorate legal aid clinic, said resolving the problems of others gave her satisfaction and self-confidence.

The best performer in the State is presented the award by the State Legal Services Authority every year.

The minimum qualification for a paralegal volunteer is Standard X. Training is given to the selected candidates and they are given identity cards on completing the training.

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