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Engaging With The State

Veena Gowda

By Anjali Dave
Orient BlackSwan, Noida, 2015, pp. 224, Rs. 420.00


'The Special Cells are located in the police system to draw on the power of the law and the Constitution to aid abused women to rebuild their lives, but this power is neither benign nor apolitical’ writes Anjali Dave in Women Survivors of Violence; Genesis and Growth of a State Support System. There is no one better qualified than Anjali Dave—a feminist activist, social worker and teacher—to critically look at the course and consequence of engaging with the state to address the issue of violence against women. Special Cell for Women and Children, a field action project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences that started in the office of the Commissioner of Police in 1984 is today a Government project functioning in more than 7 states with over 300 cells. It is this historical journey that Anjali traces in her book drawing from personal experiences of working with the state, institutions, organizations, groups and above all women. The book becomes an interesting read as she weaves her own growth and development as a feminist with that of organization and its vision. For young feminists and social workers wanting to work on the issue of violence against women this book would be a good primer into understanding not only how state and patriarchy work but in also understanding how women themselves look at violence and relationships in their lives. For activists/ social workers building organizations and negotiating/lobbying with the state, the experiences of the author in identifying and overcoming road blocks created by individuals, state agencies and other organizations are very insightful. The Special Cell, a coordinated multiagency, provides professional social services to women survivors of violence within the police system. This relationship not only meant that the social workers understand the police structure and functioning but the police understand and acknowledge the need for such socio-legal work. The book discusses (with personal anecdotes and a critical eye) this relationship of learning and manoeuvering between the social workers and the police—conceding to hierarchies that social work abhors and challenging ideas/understanding of the police that they are unaccustomed to but constantly being aware that the state is neither benign nor apolitical. Laws have always been seen as a tool to address the issues of violence against women in society. Around the time the Special Cell was set up the Indian Penal Code was also amended for the first time, ...

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