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These female advocates with their wands of justice have been fighting for justice and are a true source of inspiration.
“I am who I am so take me as I am,” said the Chief justice of India in a historic judgment which struck down the immoral section 377 of the Indian constitution.
The fight against this 157-year-old law was a long-term campaign orchestrated by two amazing public-interest litigators, Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy.
These two Indian lawyers were recently named in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people.
These two women are an inspiration for everyone – and there are more such amazing women in our legal fraternity! We bring you a list of 8 such female advocates who are the ‘superheroes’ of justice.
Menaka Guruswamy is an advocate in the Supreme Court of India. She works mostly in in constitutional law and criminal law. She has played a very active role in defending a provision in the Right to Education Act, which mandated that all non minority run private schools admit disadvantaged children. Apart from that she also fought for the victims of Extra-Judicial killings in Manipur.
Her most important contribution has been in the fight against Section 377. She was among the lawyers arguing for the Naz foundation while challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
She has dedicated her entire life to the cause of upholding justice. As she summarizes in this quote,
“to advocate, for those who cannot tell their own stories, to defend those whose freedom is in peril, to prod a nation to ask of itself: for who am I, and for what was I created?”
Arundhati Katju is a notable Supreme Court advocate. She has undertaken many notable cases which included fighting for transgender rights, and taking up the Jessica Lal murder case; she was also involved in fighting for justice in the 2G spectrum corruption case. Her most notable contribution has been fighting against Section 377.
Katju played a very instrumental role in fighting against this archaic law and she believes that,
“The law was an expression of the Victorian-era morality but it had come to be understood as an expression of conservative Indian social values, it was Criminal law that shuts down your aspirations.”
Karuna Nundy is an advocate in the Supreme Court who works in human rights litigation, constitutional law and media laws. She has contributed significantly to the gender equality movement in India.
Karuna Nundy fought for seeking justice to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy. She has also relentlessly fought for free speech online.
Her most notable contribution has been drafting the Womanifesto and in the framing of the anti-rape bill after the Nirbhaya Delhi gang rape.
“Teach men how not to stalk, how to control anger, how to become more ‘marriageable’. Why should the onus always be on the woman”
Shreya Singhal is an Indian lawyer who had played a very significant role in the judgment for scrapping Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which posed a restriction on freedom of speech.
In 2012 she filed a petition against section 66(A) following the arrests of two young women in Maharashtra for posting and liking a comment against the shutdown in Mumbai following Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death.
Sudha Bharadwaj is a prominent trade unionist and a civil rights activist. She is associated with the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha where she fought against corrupt bureaucrats who denied payment of proper wages to workers in mines and plants in Bhilai. She also engaged in issues of Dalit and tribal rights and defended the right for land, the right for education, for health and for security against corrupt landlords of workers
Since 2016, Bharadwaj has been fighting a legal battle for the villagers of Ghatbarra and adjacent areas in Chattisgarh. On August 28 in connection with caste violence that in Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon village, Sudha Bharadwaj and nine other prominent human rights activists were arrested. The authorities claimed that the detained activists are ‘urban Naxalites’, who aimed to engineer ‘frequent protests and chaos’.
Sudha Bhardwaj commented on her life journey and said:
“I haven’t earned money but I have earned people”.
Vrinda Grover was recognized by the TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in 2013. She is a researcher and human rights activist. Grover had fought for justice in the Soni Sori rape-torture case and the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots.
Her major contribution has been in the drafting of the 2013 Criminal Law Amendment law against sexual assault, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, and the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, a law which dealt with the protection from Communal and Targeted Violence.
Indira Jaising is one of the best advocates in the Supreme Court of India. She is known for her legal activism in promoting human rights causes. Indira Jaising was ranked 20th in the list of 50 Greatest Leaders of the World by Fortune magazine.
She has fought several cases relating to discrimination against women. The most notable one was the Mary Roy’s case, which led to the grant of equal inheritance rights for Syrian Christian women in Kerala. She has been involved in cases related to the discrimination against women, the Muslim Personal Law, child labour, domestic violence cases, and so on.
Her work has been instrumental in the framing of the Domestic Violence Act (2005). Her most recent accolades include a major victory in Priya Pillai’s case where the High Court ruled that the state cannot muzzle dissent. Jaising was also the first woman to be appointed as an Additional Solicitor General of India in 2009.
Flavia Agnes is a legal scholar, women’s rights activist and lawyer. She is also the Co-Founder of ‘Majlis’, an organization that provides legal representation for women.
Agnes has worked a lot towards spreading awareness about minority and women rights. She was also instrumental in the formation of the Forum Against Oppression of Women which is a campaign group that dealt with issues involving domestic violence, dowry and sexual harassment in 1979. Her own experience with domestic violence has been an inspiration behind working for women rights.
These female advocates have indeed been the warriors of justice. They are the forces that empower, educate and inspire many other women to fight for what is right and what is wrong.
Images via Wikimedia Commons
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Minor correction, from description for Menaka Guruswamy “which mandated that all private schools admit disadvantaged children.”
Correct statement is – “which mandated that all non minority run private schools admit disadvantaged children.”
Thank you for your input. Updated.
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