Friday, 18 June 2010

Pro bono public interest writ reveals heart-rending living conditions of widows in India

The National Commission for Women (NCW), India recently submitted its survey report to the Supreme Court of India on the neglected condition of widows living in India. The NCW conducted this survey after an order was issued by the Supreme Court of India that accepted a pro bono writ petition filed by Ravindra Bana, a senior practising counsel at the Supreme Court and Founder Director of the Environment & Consumer Protection Foundation (ECPFO).

The writ petition was filed by Ravindra Bana on behalf of ECPFO as a Public Interest Litigation, based on a newspaper report titled White Shadows of Vrindavan that highlighted the deplorable conditions of widows who are driven out of their homes after the death of their husbands to live the rest of their lives in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. On being approached, the Supreme Court of India immediately admitted the petition and issued notices to the state and central government for their responses. In order to secure fair and detailed information about the status of these widows, the Court requested the NCW to conduct a comprehensive survey on these atrocities committed against women and to submit a report to the Court. The survey report was recently submitted after a delay and will now come up for discussion before the Court in July 2010 when the Court re-opens after its summer break.

Meanwhile, ‘The Times of India’ newspaper has provided some information about this issue, which is available here.

On a related note, the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey, USA, hosted an exhibition titled Beloved Daughters, which explored the lives of dispossessed widows and the challenges confronting women in India. The powerful exhibition consisted of exclusive photographs of Indian women paired with their testimony. A brief news article about the exhibition can be read on the Princeton University website.

Posted by
Anurag Bana
IBA Legal Projects Team

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Law School Clinic’s Petition Brings Relief to Puerto Rican Community

Along with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico, the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law filed a Petition for Precautionary Measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (“IACHR”) on behalf of residents of Villas del Sol, a community in Puerto Rico. This video, prepared by the law students and the school’s media personnel, describes the residents’ plight (English translation).

Finding that the community was on a flood plain, the local government had ordered the residents to vacate. Electric and water service had ceased. Three weeks from the scheduled eviction date, the government had not publicly identified the relocation site. Alleging violations of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and asserting the risk of further physical harm, increased mental suffering, and possible forced eviction, and relying on some 40 affidavits collected by the law students over a single weekend, the residents petitioned the IACHR on April 28, 2010 to order the United States government immediately to take measures to:

• restore the provision of water and electricity services,
• prevent further police violence,
• end police interference in emergency medical situations,
• halt the process of forced evictions,
• ensure that the relocation process of community members be peaceful—without threat to community members' lives or homes, and
• ensure that the relocation of community members be to an area where they will have access to water and electrical services and to dwellings that are safe and inhabitable and in an area free of unreasonable police surveillance or interference.

The petition was covered widely in the media and within 24 hours, water services were restored to the community. The parties are now working toward further peaceful resolution of the matter.

Posted by
Robin Wright Westbrook
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee