In Search of a Dignity Restoring Safe Space (Tamil Nadu)

Violence against women is a grave violation of women’s human rights and is rooted in the gender biased discrimination and patriarchal social norms that normalises such violence. Women survivors of violence often find themselves at a crossroads, not knowing where to go and what to do. Finding a place to stay becomes the most urgent need, and the shelter home for women was created to address this need by providing them with temporary shelter.

Women’s rights organizations and feminist groups recognized the need to critically reflect on the state of shelter homes and to consolidate their learning and experiences for use as an advocacy tool. This coming together led to the genesis of an informal, national network on shelter homes in 2016: Lam-lynti Chittara Nerallu, meaning ‘to lead the way under the vista of stars’. The name is derived from three different Indian languages. In Khasi, Lam-lynti means to lead the way, Chittara is a Telugu word that means star and Neralu in Kannada refers to shelter.

The network aimed to re-imagine shelter homes as open, positive spaces that ensure a rightsbased, dignity-restoring support system for survivors of violence. Its main objectives have been to: a) review the conceptual underpinning of shelter homes for women; b) produce evidence-based knowledge on the operational conditions of and services by shelter homes (including challenges and best practices); and c) demand accountability of the state via evidence-based advocacy and outreach for optimal functioning of women’s shelter homes.