The violation of women’s fundamental rights through physical, mental, emotional, and sexual violence against women has become almost commonplace in the Indian context. Violence against women has taken particularly acute forms in circumstances where populations are already marginalised, such as in areas affected by armed conflict, areas undergoing mass displacement. Women in the Tribal belts and amongst Dalit populations are already vulnerable, and become even more so in areas affected by conflict. There is therefore a pressing need for the judiciary to recognise and address the particular forms of violence levied against women who are ‘doubly marginalised’ by caste, class, religion, or in situations conflict. Customary routinely laws discriminate against women, both by denying justice to victims of violence and by dispossessing women from their shares in land and property. A number of laws that protect women from discrimination have also either inadequate, or have not been properly implemented. HRF has been intimately connected with the women’s movement and lawyers and social activists at HRF use the law to oppose all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence against women and to endeavour to increase women's access to the justice system as a vital means to their empowerment.
The approach of HRF involves not only the prevention of specific forms of violence and discrimination against women, but also encompasses all other human rights, including the right to food and health; disability, housing labour rights; dalit/ tribal/ adivasi rights; environmental justice; criminal justice, etc. With this holistic vision of equality and gender justice, HRF works directly with poor and marginalized women as well as through legal education, advocacy and policy analysis to continue the struggle for women's rights.
In order to achieve our objectives, HRF adopts a multi-pronged strategy to deal with the various facets of women’s rights violations. HRF engages in strategic litigation through Public Interest Litigations in the High Court and the Supreme Court for systematic changes as well as the implementation of policy and women’s rights laws. Through legal aid and counseling we provide women with representation in cases including divorce, domestic violence, matrimonial remedies, guardianship, custody, adoption, property rights, sexual harassment, etc. HRF is also active in opposing bail of the accused in cases of violence against women, particularly in cases of rape, dowry harassment, domestic violence, and acid-attacks. Lawyers working with the HRF provide legal counseling to women at various legalaid centres, crime against women cells, and even to women prisoners. We provide legal expertise as member of several committees, including as members of several sexual harassment complaint committees.
HRF responds to situations of crisis through emergency dispatch of legal teams for support in crisis-affected zones, through investigative missions and through legal fact-findings, which often become the basis for further litigation to address severe women’s rights violations. We also consistently monitor and review the implementation of laws and policies related to women.
Through legal education and training for social activists, mahila panchayats, police personnel, lawyers, law students, paralegals, etc., we work to integrate women’s issues into the general discourse on justice and human rights. HRF also supports campaigns to influence public opinion, policies and legislation in support of a violence-free society for women.