International Human Rights

Session Report
Priyanka Negi

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two- Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “International Human Rights was held on the 14th of June 2023 by Adv Dr Shalu Nigam, Visiting Senior Fellow IMPRI, Advocate, Author, and Researcher, Gender and Human Rights.

IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted the second session of LPPYF- Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship, a two-month online immersive legal awareness & action research certificate training course and internship program, on 14th June, 2023. Swetha Shankar, researcher at IMPRI, kicked off the session by welcoming the attendees & introducing the panelists. 

The session was chaired by Prof Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI. Prof Vibhuti Patel began this session with a warm expression of gratitude towards team IMPRI. She then proceeded with a recap of the takeaways from the session 1 of the LPPYF program. She informed that session 2 is an important discussion on “International human rights” by Adv Dr Shalu Nigam, Visiting Senior Fellow IMPRI; Advocate, Author, and Researcher, Gender and Human Rights & Adv Dr Vahida Nainar, Independent Researcher, Gender & Human Rights Consultant.

Multiple Legal Perspectives

Dr Shalu Nigam reminisced about her first experience as a beginner legal aid & shared an instance which alerted her about the term ‘court’ not being a familiar term on the streets. Instead, she encountered a new term ‘kachahari’ that the masses related to. She drew the conclusion that law is perceived differently among the masses & the court. She gave a brief introduction on the various definitions of law given by theorists, scholars & philosophers.

Dr Shalu Nigam focused on the making & enforcement of law as her chosen legal perspective. In regards of making & enforcement of law she shared the following two case studies.

The Struggle of Bhanwari Devi

Bhanwari Devi, a Rajasthan native was married to her husband when she was a 5- or 6-year-old child. Bhanwari Devi’s brave rebellion against child marriage was not well received by the community resulting in her husband being beat up & Bhanwari being gangraped by the upper caste men. The authorities right from lodging the FIR to being tested continued to show indifference in the matter. As an employee of Women’s development project (WDP), the state government was her employer who had refused to help her claiming that the assault occurred in the fields.

On November 15, 1995, the district & sessions court dismissed the case & acquitted the 5 men accused. The statements such as village head & elderly couldn’t rape and that upper caste men cannot rape lower caste women because of purity reasons, caused an uproar in the Women’s movement. A PIL was filed in the supreme court. The supreme court in Vishakha versus State of Rajasthan, pronounced decision which resulted in the formation of Vishakha Guidelines.

This August 1997, judgement gave the basic definition of sexual harassment at the workplace & provided guidelines to deal with it. This was followed by the making of Sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition & redressal) act, 2013. Dr. Shalu Nigam then briefly discussed the problems with the enforcement of this law. 

Right to food

Dr. Shalu Nigam began this segment by laying out the statistics that very well express the food insecurity that our nation faces. In the Global Hunger Index India is ranked 107 amongst 121 countries. She mentioned how gender roles prevent women in the families from consuming nutrient rich food & that between farm & plate a lot of food is wasted.

She then detailed the case of PUCL versus Union of India. The petition brought to attention the lack of transparency in the distribution system leading to starvation despite the Food Corporation of India (FCI) Godowns being full. The court attested Right to food as an important constituent to maintain Article 21 of the Constitution of India which ensures the fundamental & human right to “life with human dignity”.

This was followed by a discussion on the steps taken towards the implementation of the interim orders passed by the court which on June 4, 2009, led to the formation of the National Food Security Act which assured food security to every individual. Further the gaps & challenges with this act were discussed. 

In the learnings segment Dr. Shalu Nigam talked about the law, morality, culture & society being intertwined in complex ways. She brought forth the insights from both the cases which depicted challenges faced by the marginal communities seeking justice. She maintained the understanding that the actual realization of rights by powerless people was flawed & needed to be continuously reframed, monitored & enforced. 

The end of Dr. Shalu Nigam’s session included a mindful questionnaire that aptly supplemented the teachings taken up during the session. The questions selected evoked curiosity amongst the attendees to delve into the subject matter more than what had been taught to broaden the horizons of their learning. The questionnaire was followed by Q & A session open for all the attendees.

This session by Dr. Shalu Nigam saw its end on a very important note as was well presented on screen. It read as follows- “The law is a site where marginalization is challenged and resisted by those who are subjugated. On the other hand, the law reinforces the patriarchal discourse, yet on the other hand, it has the authority to set out the social order. Women & marginalized groups have used the law to challenge the hierarchy & dominant notions.”  

Priyanka is a research intern at IMPRI.

See picture gallery from the session on Instagram: IMPRI (@impriindia) • Instagram photos and videos

Read more session reports for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship:

Laws, Public Policy and Media

Public Policy Drivers