Welcome to India - Legal Edition!
Becky Getman - Hyderabad India
After a bit of a slow start, the pace of things has definitely picked up! For one week, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to the slums each morning. There are about 5 that the organization visits on a regular basis. The Indian women with us help the women in the village learn to sew or lead a Bible study, while the interns play with the kids. Given my love of kids, this was so much fun for me! It is amazing the joy and enthusiasm the kids have in spite of having so little. They are content to just color and be picked up and thrown around. One highlight for me was getting to pray with a girl who was about 16 years old and has been married 4 years and recently had a baby. Her husband is 18 and has a decent job, making around 4,000 rupees a month (only about $85, but high for India). However, he only gives her about 1,000 of that for her and the baby, spending the rest of the money on drinking. I am in awe at the faith some of these women have. I think it is easier to trust in God when you feel like He is providing for you, but I am so impressed at how they cling to Him in the midst of their struggles.
The next week we were given the opportunity to observe at a Human Rights Law Firm, right across from the High Court for Andhra Pradesh (the state we are staying in). While I don't have extensive experience observing American law firms to compare it with, I feel confident in saying it was quite different. There were several Indian law students interning there also. It is funny because they can start law school right after high school, so they are only 18 or 19 years old, but we all just finished our first year of law school. Basically they arrive around 11 or 11:30 each day and sit around until the lawyer arrives and gives them some sort of assignment to do. We got to sit in on a few discussions of cases they are dealing with. One involved a man killed in a stampede at a movie premier, leaving a widow and four children. They were trying to sue the theater for negligence. It was interesting to see the various approaches they thought of to seek justice, ranging from passing new laws for movie theaters to calling it an atrocity because the man was Dalit.
After a hard 1.5-2 hours of work, the students would head out around 1 for lunch. We got to sample some of the local specialties, including biryani, pani puri, pan, and dosa (google those for pictures!). However, some of the food came from street stands, which they tend to tell us to avoid. Somehow my stomach made it through the week and it was great to pretend I was a local. Although you do get a bit nervous when the law students are talking about how the food is a bit iffy and one of them got sick! The students were great about treating us and helping us out. Around 2 or 2:30 we would return to the office and then the students would start to talk about leaving for the day. The lawyer was in and out all day, going to court and meeting clients, so they didn't seem to have much accountability. So different from the crazy hours you hear about at firms in America!
Overall, it was interesting to hear about the Indian legal system and the issues with it. For the most part, the laws are in place, but mostly just to appease the international audience. They aren't really enforced and there is a lot of corruption and bribes. The caste system is so engrained in society that it is hard for the lower castes to get justice. It is difficult to find a imagine solution, other then societal change, which is always slow to come. To some extent, it reminds me of slavery in America and the Civil Rights movement. One can only hope that with time, justice will be had for all the poor and oppressed in India. No legal system is perfect and America's certainly has its flaws, but it seems justice is usually served. Hopefully my experiences in India will equip me for the Public Interest work I hope to do in my future legal career.
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