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Liberty Aldrich,gender violence activist in the United States of America for almost two decades,was in Kolkata recently to share her experience with students,lawyers and organisations that work towards a similar cause.
For Aldrich shift in culture of a country is key to make society a better place for women. However,she also advocates the need for an exemplary punishment for those who commit crime against women.
Stringent laws are necessary to curb the menace of gender violence,but it is not enough to stop the violence against women, says Aldrich,Director of Gender Based Violence Programs at the Center for Court Innovation.
Aldrich,a graduate from Harvard University and New York University School of Law,provides technical assistance on development and implementation of domestic violence and sexual assault criminal justice programmes nationally and internationally.
At a time when it is being debated whether juveline accused for rape and murder in the country should be treated as adults during the trial,Aldrich says such accused are treated as adults in the USA.
Aldrich,who works with government and non-government agencies to implement a co-ordinated community response to gender-based violence and human trafficking,says counselling young people is a major part of the programme.
We need to have men who would teach the youth that committing crime against women is not the way to show masculinity. The men have to be a part of the programme for the society to change gradually.
Aldrich who has been working in this field since 1995,conducts training for judges,attorneys and other justice professionals on effective interventions to address domestic violence,family violence,and sexual assault.
She has led several training programmes in over 30 US states and territories as well as in Argentina,Canada,Chile,Australia,and Trinidad and Tobago.
Aldrich is also founder and director of Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT),an agency that assists over 55,000 New Yorkers every year by providing information and supportive services to litigants in Family Courts.
Over the issue of trafficking,she says both buyers and sellers need to be prosecuted. We always demand for tough penalty for both buyers and sellers of women, says Aldrich.
Emphasising on rehabilitation of victims as important,she says: The government needs to arrange for job opportunities for the trafficked women. Most of the victims belong to rural areas where the mechanism is not as strong as we see in the cities. They are more vulnerable and we need to take a good care of them.