How often in your daily lives have you come across the term “legal awareness”—very often, sometimes, a couple of times or never? I am sure the answer to the question would be one of the given options. Irrespective of how many times we have come across the term, we, as citizens, of a country have seldom contributed towards this concept.
The word “legal” in itself is heavily loaded. The mere mention of it brings in the imagery of a court room full of people, lawyers and the judge, as depicted in a theatrical manner in our movies too!
Every country has a set of laws which govern the smooth execution of things in all spheres of life. In fact, it is the laws in place that give us the security to move around freely in our country—then why run away from spreading awareness about it?
Media forms an excellent platform for this, especially in this technology driven era. We, as the people of a democratic nation, study about the Constitution and the flexibility it offers to its citizens by way of fundamental rights and duties. However, legal awareness is larger than that—it is ensuring that the masses become privy to more than just rights and duties; it is about disseminating knowledge among the young and the old about specific issues which are more prevalent in our society like human rights, women’s rights, child protection rights etc.
Ignorance of the laws in place cannot be treated as an excuse to any crime committed. Any action which is unlawful should be brought to justice. But how can one do so if the myths surrounding legal procedures are not broken.
Legal awareness by all means is significant as it helps to spread information and prevent domestic violence. It becomes a tool for compliance with or rejection of the legal and socially acceptable norms. A mass consciousness about the right and the wrong can be achieved by sensitising the public through awareness programmes.
Governments of different regimes and political affiliations have taken up steps for enhancing among the people the knowledge of the legal culture and their participation in the formation of laws, but unfortunately, it has not been brought into practice the way it is truly desired to be.
The best way of spreading this awareness is to enhance the comprehension of the laws and the perceptions to use them among the adolescents and youth of our country. Our Prime Minister has always kept the youth and their involvement as a prime feature in all the government’s initiatives— then why not target them to spread legal awareness as well!
Once the teens and young adults become aware of what is within the legal jurisdiction, they would think before committing a crime. Not only so, those who have a voice in society would be able to raise it for the well being of others around them. Legal awareness would hence become a source of psychological safety for the women, men and children of society. It would become a source to reduce the threat to violence, abuse and exploitation of the weaker sections and women in particular.
There is a huge difference among the rural and urban areas. People in rural areas are unaware of their basic rights and live their lives as told to them by their elders. Urban adolescents, on the other hand, are more aware of the basic laws made for the comfort and uplift of society.
The other category which lacks legal awareness is women of the society. The ones who are educated are more confident in expressing themselves and fight for their rights when exploited, but the rural or the uneducated ones are devoid of this benefit. There is a dearth of awareness about several schemes and initiatives the government has in place for the growth and development of the girl child and women in particular and any citizen in general.
Hence, it becomes evident that we as a nation have to have more efficient and effective systems in place for spreading legal awareness about women’s rights, child rights, property rights and the fundamental right of education, in order to achieve the dream of a futuristic India endowed with socio-economic prosperity.
The author is an assistant professor at Amity Institute of Education in New Delhi