Go On! Yearbook of International Disaster Law Live Series Webinars

Yearbook of International Disaster Law announced open registration for Live Series Webinars, which will be held on September 15, September 29, and October 13. Within this series of webinars are presentations on relevant issues, such as the protection of persons in disasters, which is explored in the Yearbook’s first two issues, as well as “Covid-19: An International Disaster Law Perspective,” which will be explored in their next issue.  Click here for details.

Go On! Climate: Red Summit

Go On! makes note of interesting conferences, lectures and similar events.

► International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies announced open registration for a Climate: Red Summit event, titled “Using Law and Policy to Reduce Risk, Enhance Coherence and Protect People”, which will be virtually held on September 9 at 17:00-18:30 Geneva time (11:00-13:30 Eastern). See the flyer below for more information and access the session (259) here: https://climate.red/atrium

Solidarity within the International Law Profession

As I sat checking my email this morning, I automatically noticed the EJIL:Talk! email, as I always do. The title intrigued me: Professional Solidarity in Teaching: An Invitation to the ESIL Teaching Corner. When I opened the email, I saw a welcome line: “At many different levels of social interaction, COVID-19 has emphasized the need to act in a spirit of solidarity.”  The two authors, Gleider Hernandez and Evelyne Schmid, are two academics whom I respect and admire. When I continued to read the post, I was heartened to see that they note the turmoil that many people are finding themselves in at the moment due to precarious employment.

I started to think about the experiences that many people in the international law profession, teaching and otherwise, are actually having at this time, people whose interests are not always (read: often not) met by the guardians of university inclusion: hiring managers and those who are behind and support the system of casualized contracts. These experiences include, but are not limited to, financial turmoil, poverty, emotional, physical, and professional hardship, and essentially falling out of the profession due to the nature of their contracts. Their circumstances are due, at least in part, to the culture of prioritizing (overpaid, overly powerful) university “management” over the rights and needs of professors, graduate students, adjuncts, lecturers, and everyone else who is affected by the instability of the current academic system. I am horrified by the fact that universities could allow their staff to fall into such situations, situations that also include death due to lack of health insurance.

The failure of academe and the “invisible college” is partially to blame for the plight that many adjuncts, casualized staff (research and otherwise), graduate students, and others find themselves in not only at the present, but on a regular basis. Concrete, specific examples of such failures include unpaid research opportunities, unpaid teaching (and being expected at times to contribute to unpaid teaching before being integrated into the formal teaching framework), underpayment or lack of payment for research/teaching/marking hours, etc. And then there are the insidious informal types of attacks/aggressions.

Too many academics, junior researchers, and teaching professionals are struggling, not being paid for all of the hours that they are working (which has been an occurrence reported at multiple institutions), and are being denied access to benefits and to stable salaries. Instead, their contracts and positions are set up by the universities and institutions for which they work to make them expendable. Briony Neilson and Natalie Maystorovich Chulio’s recent article in The Guardian reports that this practice is occurring at Australian universities as well, and they call this “hospitality-industry levels of wage theft”. I think that this is an apt description. The hospitality industry is notorious for under-paying its workers and for not providing them with benefits; indeed, if a club is considered as a provider in the hospitality industry, it is worth noting that George Floyd had lost his job as a bouncer and was allegedly attempting to pay for groceries using counterfeit money before his death.

The fact that this parallel exists between George Floyd’s situation and that of many professionals in international law, and indeed, in academia, these days, is probably not a coincidence. Part of the convenience of casualized contracts and employment is to allow employers to exercise greater control over their staff and to pay less for their upkeep, even though they are the ones doing the bulk of the work that brings in the metaphorical bacon, so to speak. My reference to George Floyd is deliberate: many of the people who find themselves in dire straits are people of color, are minorities, self-identified and/or otherwise, and many are international students in universities, with little recourse to support (even if the boxes for institutional support are checked) and solidarity. They are also subject to departmental, university-level, and disciplinary politics.

One of the main reasons that people keep their mouths shut, or “say nothing”, is because they fear attempts at “retribution” and retaliation, or some other such nonsense. For many minorities, including but not limited to people who may be, for example, international students, women, racial/ethnic/religious minorities, etc., they may have no choice but to keep their heads down and say nothing. They also may face the prospect of financial limitation, as if they are forced to depart from a job or a program, they may not be able to return or to find a similarly funded or analogous position, due to formal and informal obstacles to inclusion and participation in academia. Do ESIL, the IBA, and ASIL, etc. provide real support for people in this situation? Are people in this situation really part of the club? Since ASIL is not paying its interns, for example, my instinct is to think that more work needs to be done on this. While there are inevitable structural (formal and informal) constraints to what a professional organization can do, we are making it too hard for people at the early stages of their careers and those who have found themselves in casualized situations to find permanent, stable jobs that provide benefits.

In other words, the international law profession needs to take a real stand and to take concrete, identifiable measures to reject the status quo and to provide pathways into decent positions that are available to everyone – not just to those who have managed to get there immediately after graduation or after years in practice. We must include people who have spent years as adjuncts, underpaid and underserved researchers, etc., as fully integrated members of the invisible college, and this must be done at the university, governmental, and institutional level. As academics, and as lawyers beholden to something more important than our academic contacts, the oaths we swore as members of the bar, we must not bow down to the whims of academic managers, and even to the neoliberal tides of the commercialization of education – even if these obligations are formalized and institutionalized through nasty contact provisions and inequitable working setups that create a permanent power imbalance that serves to undermine our fundamental rights – including our rights to express our solidarity with our colleagues without facing political retribution/retaliation, dismissal, harassment, etc.

It is my personal view that such management – and its underlying ethos – should be removed from university administration in theory and practice, and that universities and international institutions, etc., should divest from casualized work contracts. All staff, students, and workers (including casualized, and including those who are hired through/officially employed by private companies) should have their rights realized and should be brought into the fold. While there are some (very specific) situations in which creating an adjunct position could be appropriate, such as, for example, hiring a top tax practitioner to teach a class, this is the exception, not the norm, and even top tax practitioners should not be underpaid for their work.

Until we are willing and able to do this, ESIL, ASIL, and all other professional associations will not be able to offer true solidarity to all the people in the international law profession – or to those who have been overlooked and/or who have fallen through the cracks. I refuse to be silent, and if the only thing that I can do is to speak out in a blog post, I will. We need to take a collective stand against the status quo and the philosophy and practices that undermine the integrity of the role of universities and professors, etc., in teaching and promoting the very substance of what we are trying to publicize: international law, human rights, equality, justice.

We are, after all, publicists, of sorts, but what are we publicizing, and how? Form and substance matter, and in this case, if the vehicle is broken, it must be fixed.

The Right to a Safe Climate

From the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 to the Paris Agreement in 2015, international law has been steadily progressing to protect our planet from the impending climate crisis. Yet these treaties have no enforcement mechanism, and many countries are not on track to achieve their pledges, which in themselves are insufficient to keep warming below the desired 1.5°C. Our governments are on a path of destruction, and climate advocates are exploring what options exist to stop them.

One option that is increasingly being explored: human rights law. Important cases have begun to be brought before different human rights bodies, and slow steps forward are being taken. This article touches upon the developments we have seen to date, and explores where we can go next.

One of the first climate cases was the Inuk Petition brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2005. This petition claimed that the actions of the United States were causing significant harm to the Arctic and thus to the Inuit culture and resources; petitioners were asking the US government to limit its greenhouse emissions and provide assistance to protect the Inuit population from unavoidable harms. Unfortunately, the petition was denied. The Commission explained that there was insufficient evidence to determine whether the United States was violating human rights.

The problem of lack of evidence is no longer an issue ─ we have seen the effects of climate change, from deadly heat waves in Paris to the Australian wildfires, and it’s increasingly hard to deny causation. Whilst cases still do face issues of standing and attribution (it can be difficult to name a specific victim or perpetrator when both the effects and causes are so widespread), climate cases are picking up steam.

In December of last year, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the Dutch Government had a legal duty to prevent climate change, based on the European Convention on Human Rights and its incorporation into the Dutch Constitution. The Urgenda Case has shown that cases can be brought successfully against governments under human rights law for the deleterious impacts of climate change. The court tackled the issues of causation, attribution and standing through saying that all of society has obligations to prevent any potential harms under the ‘Precautionary Principle’. This case represents a significant breakthrough in the human rights law relevant to climate change. 

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Introducing Imogen Woods-Wilford

It is our great pleasure to introduce our new IntLawGrrls contributor, Imogen Woods-Wilford. Imogen is an undergraduate student at Stanford University. She has spent this summer as a fellow at the Stanford Existential Risk Initiative, researching how Human Rights can be applied in the prevention and mitigation of climate change. Her supervisor, Professor Beth Van Schaack, is the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at the Stanford Law School and a faculty affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Human Rights & International Justice.


Imogen first became interested in international human rights law aged 15, while lobbying the British Government to improve the UK’s air quality in order to protect children’s health. Since starting at Stanford in 2019, she has pursued this interest by taking a course at Stanford Law School under Professor Van Schaack.

Heartfelt welcome!

Read On! The Nineteenth Amendment and the U.S. “Women’s Emancipation Policy” in Post-World War II Occupied Japan: Going Beyond Suffrage

Written by Cornelia Weiss.

In 2019, the Akron Law School proactively celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment during a day-long conference. It was at a women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio that in 1851 Sojourner Truth delivered one of the most famous speeches in U.S. history. And it was in Homer, Ohio that the first female candidate for U.S. president, Victoria Woodhull, issued speeches from the top of a mound in her childhood. 

As a result of the 2019 conference, the Akron Law Review issued a special edition on the 19th Amendment. My article, The Nineteenth Amendment and the U.S. “Women’s Emancipation Policy” in Post-World War II Occupied Japan: Going Beyond Suffrage (https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol53/iss2/4/), addresses what may be the first U.S. feminist foreign policy: emancipation of women in Post-World War II Occupied Japan. The article discussed what actions were taken and what actions were knowingly not taken during this period as well as the consequences of these actions, inactions, and failures for present day Japan (and for the greater world). 

A mere 25 years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women’s suffrage had transformed from being controversial to being an ingrained assumption of what constitutes “democracy” by a five star military general, General Douglas MacArthur (the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers to Japan). MacArthur advised Japanese leaders in Post-WWII Occupied Japan: “In the achievement of the Potsdam Declaration, the traditional social order under which the Japanese people for centuries have been subjugated will be corrected.” He continued: “In the implementation of these requirements and to accomplish the purposes thereby intended, I expect you to institute the following reforms in the social order of Japan as rapidly as they can be assimilated.” His first demand: “The emancipation of the women of Japan.” How?: “[T]hrough their enfranchisement – that, being members of the body politic, they may bring to Japan a new concept of government directly subservient to the well being of the home.” 

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Webinar on USG Political Appointments

The Leadership Council for Women in National Security (LCWINS), of which I am a proud member, is hosting a series of webinars on surviving the political appointment process within the U.S. government.

Session 1: Introduction and Overview / High-Level Perspective
Monday, August 24 at 3pm ET/12pm PT

Register here.

The kick off event features the following speakers:

  • Dina Powell McCormick, Partner & Managing Committee, Goldman Sachs
    • Former Deputy National Security Advisor and Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel
  • Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Director, Center for Public Leadership and Professor of Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School
    • Former Under Secretary of State of State for Political Affairs and Acting Deputy Secretary of State
  • Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Distinguished Professor of the Practice at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Nunn School of International Affairs
    • Former Deputy Secretary of Energy and former White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering WMD, and Arms Control
  • Ambassador Eileen Donahoe (Moderator)Executive Director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center
    • Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva

This event is the first in a six-part series preparing women to navigate the political appointments process. Future events:


Session 2: Political Appointment 101: Process and Organizations
Week of Aug 31-Sept 4


Session 3: Ambassadorships
Week of Sept 7-11


Session 4: Vetting, Forms and Ethics: Preparing Now to be Successful Later
Week of Sept 14-18

Session 5: The Senate Confirmation Process: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over
Week of Sept 21-25

Session 6: Race, Racism, Intersectionality and Political Appointment
Week of Sept 28-Oct 2

Go On! International Law and the 2020 Presidential Election: What is at Stake

The American Society of International Law announced open registration for “International Law and the 2020 Presidential Election: What is at Stake,” which comprises of six hour-long sessions that discuss what the 2020 Presidential Election will mean for the future of international law. The first session, Cyber Threats and Election Interference, will be held on August 19, 2020, at 1:00 PM. This session will consider the legal and security implications of foreign interference in the U.S. elections, and will examine the 2020 U.S. presidential candidates’ policies and perspectives.  Click here to register and find more information.

Today’s Judgment in Ayyash et al.

 

On February 14th, 2005, I turned on my computer and visited the BBC webpage, as was my daily habit. Bomb blast. Hariri dead. Others dead or wounded. Today, August 18th, 2020, I turned on my computer and watched the Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (“STL”) render its verdict in the Ayyash et al. case. Judge Janet Nosworthy described the situation of one blast victim who may have stayed alive for 12 hours without detection. Had this person been found and received medical assistance, he might have survived. The Trial Chamber found that the blast was triggered by a suicide bomber.

While watching the judgment hearing, I recalled the summer of 2012, when I was finishing my LL.M. and working madly on my dissertation. I spent the last months of my studies as an intern at the STL. It was more than a little bit surreal to see a high level, high-powered judicial institution operating in Leidschendam, which is right outside of The Hague, seized of a case concerning the Middle East. (Please note that this blog post reflects my views alone and not those of any institution.)

Why was it so strange for me to see an international tribunal actively intervening in a situation regarding a terrible explosion that had claimed the lives, bodies, and livelihoods of many? It was strange because the case dealt with the Middle East, and impunity for severe human rights violations – even human rights violations resulting in loss of life, destruction of bodies, and destruction of minds – is a daily reality in the region. Finally, the international community had turned its attention to this reality and was attempting to do something about it.

More recently, the August 4th explosion in Beirut, in which at least 200 people died, 4,000 were injured, and 300,000 people were left homeless, occurred before the STL’s scheduled judgment delivery. The explosion reminded me again of how important this tribunal is, not only in terms of its legal significance but it in terms of its symbolism in dealing with an act of political violence.

While the crime of terrorism is a matter of great controversy in international law, it is important to remember the following when considering the STL’s work, its impact, and its future legacy. Political violence can be perpetrated by state agents, or by armed groups. From my perspective, the tribunal’s significance lies in part in establishing a precedent in saying that we, the international community, are with you, the victims of political violence, and that we are with your families and with your communities. It is my personal view that the crime of terrorism, which is part of a typology of political violence in the international legal lexicon, is equally reprehensible when committed by state agents and non-state agents.

In the future, I hope that the STL’s impact and legacy will contribute to holding individuals working for states and for non-state actors responsible for heinous acts of violence before independent, impartial courts of law.

 

Interview with Professor Mallika Kaur

Mallika Kaur is a lawyer and writer who focuses on gender and minority issues in the United States and South Asia including post 9/11 violence, racial discrimination, farmer suicides, and transitional and transformative justice. She is also a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.  She writes regularly for online and print media as well as academic publications; her work has been published in Foreign Policy, Washington Post, California Law Review among others. We would also like to take this as an opportunity to thank Mallika for all the work and efforts she has contributed to INTLAWGRRLS over the past several years.

Her book titled “Faith, Gender and Activism in the Punjab Conflict: The Wheat Fields Still Whisper” was published by Palgrave Publishers a few months ago. I had the honor of interviewing her with regards to her new book. The interview is transcribed below.

Question: What was your motivation behind writing this book? Why did you specifically choose to cover Punjab’s human rights movement?

Answer: I did not in fact set out with the motivation of writing a book. It was not a part of any academic project or research agenda. It was something that came out of my own journeying. I grew up in Chandigarh, Punjab, having been a part of a community of folks who read their news in English, discussed it perhaps in Punjabi, and largely did not talk to their kids about the armed conflict at all. A seminal year in the conflict history was the Indian Army’s attack on Punjab, epicentered at Darbar Sahib (akin to Temple of David or Mecca) in June 1984. This provoked a visceral reaction from Sikhs, indeed even many non-Sikhs. Yet, within months—I was a toddler still—the justified necessity of the June massacres had taken hold in the non-Sikh psyche of India. Since then, any demands for truth-telling–about that June or the decade of mass violence that followed—have been considered suspect by the majority community and the successive governments of India.

As an adult, my legal and international human rights interest was around courts and commissions and possibility of a regional mechanism for South Asia. I was initially interested in those questions but eventually what I landed on in my work was how powerful stories are in unwrapping things that have been largely silenced for a very long time.

Punjab has been a laboratory of several nation-building projects in India: the Partition in 1947, the not so revolutionary Green Revolution in the 60s-70s, and various attempts at stifling dissent in the 80s and 90s. But these multiple upheavals that contextualize Punjab’s present have seldom been woven and written together, much less by a Sikh woman.

Through this book, I have tried to fight against this idea that the Punjab conflict was just about violence against violence with men combating on both sides. I tried to find stories of people who were non-combatants but chose the dangerous work of human rights defence. The book is trying to re-shift focus from “leaders,” combatants and an obsession with violence to a more nuanced and inclusive approach. Instead of just Indira Gandhi and other perpetrators, the book hopes the limelight comes to rest on women leaders like Paramjit Kaur Khalra, Kuldeep Kaur, Amar Kaur, unnamed women like the police officer who secretly helped inmates in one of Punjab’s many torture centers, and Baljit Kaur, who you see on the cover of the book. Within this marginalized conflict, I am looking at further neglected gender issues. For the men’s stories, I highlight the dangerous tendencies that were conveniently ascribed to all turbaned and bearded Sikh men, and then the general prohibition society imposes on men that makes it quite impossible for them to admit many emotions, much less speak about sexualized torture.

Question: How did you approach and research this topic?

Answer: The story-collection, writing, having the subjects of the story read it, all happened over many years, which was fine because this writing did not have any specific deadline of restriction. One of the benefits of doing a project entirely on your own time and dime! People were generous once they understood where the questions were coming from. They shared their personal archives including videos, legal files and other documents. The book eventually combines legal cases, scholarly analysis, community memory and personal narrative. The hybrid approach is necessary to tease the nuances lost in a more straightforward memoir, collective biography or academic examination. Further, memoir snapshots provide the reader the needed history of the author narrating the history of the conflict: exposing my vantage point and influences directly.

The book is all and not at all about Punjab. When generations of violence may have made silence more expedient than excavation, how might we learn about conflicts’ complexities of the past and their manipulated shadows in the present? Most linear, neat, cited and chronological tellings of conflicts overlook essential dynamics such as gender and trauma.

Each chapter centers on a key case from the year (or years) of its focus, starting in descending order from 1995, the supposed end of the conflict. Legal case details are available to varying extents, which is instructive: till the mid-90s, legal remedies were de facto suspended in Punjab. Case descriptions thus also draw from non-legal sources. Each case necessarily invokes additional cases. And then advocating for the need to embrace complexity and reject binary understandings, each chapter also contains an interwoven section that quickly traverses the earlier history of Punjab, starting in ascending order from 1839, the transition from Sikh rule to British colonial rule. The two timelines, descending from 1995 and ascending from 1839, converge in the final chapter, on the pivotal year, 1984.

Question: What kind of audience did you have in mind while writing the book?

Answer: The audience of this book is pretty large and varied. It includes scholars, lawyers, policy makers, activists, students, and general readers. By presenting convergences between different forms of violence–current and historical, interpersonal and mass social violence—I believe this book has already engaged a variety of readers. I have received very different reactions and reflections from people of various walks of life over the last months. Women who read between the lines when the women in the book remained silent about certain things. Men who have expressed they never thought of some basic gendered dynamics in how even the more popular stories from the Punjab conflict are spoken about.

Also, I strongly felt that since the violence was rendered so common in Punjab, I had to figure out a way of telling the story in a way that is not limited to lawyers or one academic discipline. That it could be understood by anybody who cares about human rights defenders who do the work of helping us retain our belief in humanity during the worst of atrocities! And it’s meant for those unnamed activists and defenders who may be feeling alone in the world. Despite the world today feeling ever-growing in its apathy and ever-shrinking in its attention span towards even the worst of crimes, you are not alone. Different points and places in history have felt the same and still there are people, like the protagonists of this book,  who have made choices against the tide. They felt they really got something out of it, out of this unsalaried and uncelebrated work. They regularly gained inspiration from the folks they worked with and defended. They felt a sense of collective as they became part of history. When you consider the tenacity of centennial litigants like Chaman Lal, it’s hard not to be moved!

Question: What was your approach while selecting the three human rights defenders for the book?

Answer: These three were in fact my windows on many other human rights defenders, some I named earlier, who were always at much more risk and suffered much more. The life stories of the three people you see on the cover of the book, Baljit Kaur, Justice Ajit Singh Bains and Inderjit Singh Jaijee, became trusted vehicles for traveling through Punjab’s recent history. Each of them is credited with saving countless lives.

Speaking of the approach while selecting these three, I’m reminded of a video I watched, which Baljit Kaur took in the late 80s. A Sikh man, a former Army officer is narrating how he was himself picked up, tortured and almost killed. He was speaking in perfect English so this was somebody with enough higher education. He had been treated this way as he had spoken against a young boy being killed. He mentioned that these folks fighting for justice, Baljit Kaur and her colleagues, were in fact the ones preserving the nation’s unity and integrity. Contrary to being seditious or dangerous as the politicians would have folks believe, it was human rights defenders who were providing ordinary people some hope that the legal and justice system could be the answer rather than further violence.

Unfortunately, people fighting for justice often fight very lonely battles. These protagonists had one another. And they had faith in a higher power that kept them going. And they had a lot of pride in Sikh history that they had heard of or witnessed when younger, through anti-British struggles, for example. Still, it was not like they were joined by a large number of other folks living in Chandigarh, Punjab who were enjoying the same relative privilege of upper class these three protagonists had during the 80s and 90s. So it was very fascinating to hear their stories as to how they surrounded police stations, how they compiled reports, how they visited Amnesty International and learnt how to make video footage to appropriately document what was happening at a time international human rights groups were not allowed in Punjab by the Indian government.

Question: How was your experience while interviewing people on this difficult past?

Answer: What I find fascinating especially about my three protagonists is that they are buoyant spirits, so young-at-heart in their 80s, 90s, even though they have seen such horrific things in their lifetimes. These protagonists have made more change than most of us will be able to make in our lifetime. I found this very uplifting despite the subject matter being very difficult.

Since I allowed myself a hybrid approach, and use memoir in the book as well, I put myself very explicitly into the discussions around the legal cases and this too helped me make sense of people’s trauma experiences. Some of the irrational reactions of these people started making more sense because they had gone through very unnatural set of circumstances. The whole Sikh community had been demonized for several decades. And now in India of 2020, the issues of creating an ‘enemy within,’ and what that does to social fabric, is again playing out. Where for example students, including pregnant women, who are protesting new discriminatory laws are picked up and booked indefinitely under draconian laws, themselves iterations of laws previously used in Punjab and then finally repealed on the books. How can we say the unlearnt lessons of past conflicts are not relevant to India today? I am not didactic about the parallels in the book. There is space for the reader to draw lessons for themselves.

Question: What do you think of the post-conflict scenario of Punjab in terms of violence against women and gender-based violence?

Answer: So, the first thing is that I don’t describe Punjab as post-conflict anywhere in the book because there has been no catharsis, no reconciliation, no period of transition, or justice, towards sustainable and inclusive peace. The estimates of those killed vary from police estimates of 25,000 to civil society estimates of 250,000. Even this variance speaks volumes about how the conflict has lived on; there is no closure, no semblance of transparency. Nobody was able to document the dead. Those who attempted to document it, like Jaswant Singh Khalra, whose amazing story I detail in Chapter 2, were killed. We went from this period of heightened killing and mayhem to an abrupt and strident “normalcy” in Punjab.

Coming to your question about gender and violence against women, I think the situation for women remains really bad through these subsequent decades, if not worse. Of course, across India we are dealing with shameful realities like marital rape being still legal. Dowry, being a ubiquitous feature of almost all weddings, despite being illegal. Ideas of honor and purity instead of autonomy and rights being tied to women’s bodies. And then some women’s bodies being deemed as not worthy of honor even: the Dalits of India disenfranchised by caste, or the women in conflict zones, who were blatantly immediately excluded from the changes that were proposed after the much publicized and horrific Delhi rape of 2012. Women who suffered in Punjab in the 80s and 90s at the hand of State forces have seen no reparations, not even in the form of recognition, much less apologies or restitution.

Question: What is next on your research agenda? Would you like to interview more female reformists of Punjab or write about some other aspect of Punjab region or the conflict?

Answer: I remain interested broadly in how we can make connections between different forms of violence that our communities negotiate – current and historical, in the U.S. and in home countries, interpersonal and mass social violence. I have also been writing and teaching on how lawyers specifically manage trauma, their clients’ and their own. Though most importantly right now, through COVID, I am focusing on the work that I have been doing since 2002, advocacy and crisis response for victims of gender-based violence. Working on gender-based violence as a practicing lawyer in the U.S., I am also really fascinated by comparatives. Right now in the U.S. there are a lot of discussions about alternatives to how domestic violence/ intimate partner violence response has been closely tied to increased policing, especially since the 70s. This is a complicated discussion here. Then add other contexts where feminists are fighting for the police to take domestic violence seriously. Or, even more complicated, cases in India where domestic violence laws are not protecting those they were meant to but are regularly manipulated by the upper-class litigants looking for an end-run. This is a part of my broader interest and possible future writing. And I dream of the time and headspace to write fiction someday! But really, I am presently quite consumed with working on the increased challenges faced by domestic violence survivors where I currently live. This too is a lesson from the protagonists of the book: make a difference where you can, don’t overlook the obvious local needs.