Jhargram District Meeting

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation passed in India on December18,2006. It has also been called the Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill and the Tribal Land Act. The law concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources which are denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India. An Act to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded; to provide for a framework for recording the forest rights so vested and the nature of evidence required for such recognition and vesting in respect of forest land.The Act provides for recognizing thirteen different rights that are central to the lives and livelihoods of tribal’sand other traditional forest dwellers across the country. These rights include rights to land under occupation as well as customary land, ownership of minor forest produce, rights to water bodies, grazing areas, habitat of Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs), conversion of all types of forest villages/settlements to revenue villages, the right and power to protect, conserve and manage community forest resources, etc. All of these rights had been illegally and unjustly denied during the classification of lands as government forests (both before and after independence). Reports of the violation of women’s fundamental rights through physical, mental,emotional, and sexual violence against women are commonplace in India. Violence against women has taken particularly acute forms in circumstances where populations are already marginalized, such as in areas affected by armed conflict and areas undergoing mass displacement. Women in the Tribal belts are amongst this population are vulnerable, and become even more so in areas affected by conflict. There is therefore a pressing need for the judiciary to recognize and address the particular forms of violence levied against women who are ‘doubly marginalized by caste, class, religion, or in situations of conflict. A number of laws that protect women from discrimination are also either inadequate or have not been implemented properly. HRLN has been closely associated with the women’s movement for over two decades. The Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI) is its national network of lawyers and social activists, that uses the law to oppose all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence against women and to increase women’s access to the justice system as a vital means to their empowerment.The WJI also runs a number of helplines throughout the nation that provides legal counseling as well as psycho-social support to women.WJI responds to situations of crisis through emergency dispatches of legal teams to 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. It also consistently monitors and reviews the implementation of laws and policies related to women.The WJI is particularly active in circumstances of extreme violation of women and has used the legal system to ensure rights and provide substantive reliefs in such cases. For example, in a writ petition filed in West Bengal against a shelter home where a woman was refused entry due to her HIV positive status, XY Vs Union Of India.court directed the directorate of Social Welfare to clarify what steps have been taken to establish more shelter homes for positive woman.