Victims’ verdict is in: Country’s first all-women courts offer hope

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"This is the first rape case which will be tried in the first women's court. We have also got a date for the next hearing. The victims will feel more confident and comfortable to speak when everyone in court is a woman. The judge, the other staff in court and we lawyers can feel the trauma of a woman who has undergone such torture," said Kakali Bagchi, the public prosecutor.

The two courts were inaugurated on January 23 but started functioning regularly only last week. They were set up on the directions of of the Chief Justice of India in the aftermath of the national outrage over the Delhi gangrape. Besides judges Mina Sarkar and Keya Sarkar, the courts each have two assistants, two clerks, two stenographers and two policewomen. But since both were general courts earlier, they have a huge backlog of pending cases.

"More than 500 cases of crime against women have been transferred to the court. But the problem is, it is a not a new court. It is an existing court which has been converted to an all-women court. So pending cases are still being tried in this court," said public prosecutor Tirtha Bose.

"The purpose of setting up the court is to have speedy trial for cases of crime against women. That will be possible when the high court orders the transfer of cases that are not related to women to other courts. That will take some time."

Adds Amalendu Banerjee, president of the Malda Bar Council: "Earlier, all cases of crime against women would be spread across 16 courts. But now the cases will be spread in two courts. So the process will be delayed. There are at least 11,000 cases pending in these two courts."

Still, complainants and victims sound optimistic about their chances of getting justice now. "We are feeling a bit relieved now as it seems that our cases will be disposed of soon in these all-women courts. The judges will be more sensitive," said Mousumi Chatterjee, who has been fighting for alimony from her husband for six years now.

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