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India’s Issue with Violence Against Women

In December 2012, a 23-year old female medical student was returning home in South Delhi, India after watching a movie with a friend. On her bus ride home, she was beaten and gang raped by six men on the bus, including the bus driver. The victim was then thrown off of the moving bus. She spent two weeks in critical condition, after which she died from her injuries. This incident sparked national and international outrage and protests regarding the shortcomings of India’s government in the protection of its women.

Unfortunately, this story is not an isolated case of a women’s rights violation in India. India has a sustained history and culture of violence against women. Less than two weeks after the rape, a 17-year-old girl who was gang-raped committed suicide after police pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers. In February 2014, the husband and parents-in-law of a young woman burned her and her baby girl alive for dowry-related issues. In July 2013, India’s top court ruled that authorities must regulate the sale of acid due to the alarming rate at which it was being used by jilted boyfriends and others to attack women. In June 2012, a man chopped off his twenty year old daughter’s head with a sword after learning that she was dating.

While these were all sensational headlining cases, the reality of the deeply rooted culture of violence against women is far graver. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, “A total of 244,270 incidents of crime against women were reported in the country during the year 2012, as compared to 228,650 in the year 2011, recording an increase of 6.4%.” The total number of reported rapes rose 35.2% between 2012 and 2013. An average of 92 women are raped in India every day. Furthermore, India still has one of the lowest sex ratios on the world with approximately 35 million women simply “missing”.

Now, more than ever, India requires a transitional justice system focusing on gender-based violence. Women are disproportionally disadvantaged in their access to economic, social, and political utilities. For a transitional justice system to effectuate tangible change, the system must be made readily available to the female population of India. First and foremost, gender based initiatives must bring women into the discussions. Too often, women are underrepresented in the creation of their own solutions. When analyzing the trends of gender based violence and injustices, women should be a persuasive voice in the conversation.

Secondly, these issues must be dealt with on a legal, educational, and political level. India must abruptly address the social norms and cultural traditions that result in the crimes against women. The advocacy against gender-based violence should first emerge in an educational setting. To fight the violence, you must first be able to recognize the many forms it takes and it’s root causes. Educational institutions can facilitate this recognition by incorporating teachings on gender equality and the reality of harm inflicted on women. Early education of women’s rights would result in the reduction of victim blaming and social acceptability of violence against women.

From a legal standpoint, India’s laws against gender-based violence are incredibly antiquated and riddled with corrupt enforcement. A zero tolerance stance against gender violence is essential for progress. The cooperation and support of India’s political parties is critical to the creation of zero tolerance laws. Political parties should consider the abhorrent statistics of violence against women as a national failure, and as such, allocate vital resources to the issue. In 2014, India’s prime Minister, Narendra Modi, became the first prime minister to bring up the issue of rape and violence against women in his national address. While this is a clear step in the right direction, it is far from an adequate pace of progress. The state can, and should, play a large and necessary role in the advancement of women’s rights by raising awareness, creating zero tolerance laws, and mobilizing women.

India will require equal participation from educational, legal, and political advocates to eliminate violence against women. Ensuring gender justice and generating societal change will be a difficult, but long overdue, endeavor.

Video: “Walking the Walk: Implementing Comprehensive Transitional Justice Strategies”

April 7, 2014:  Dr. Agnes Hurwitz
“Walking the Walk:  Implementing Comprehensive Transitional Justice Strategies”
Click here for video

Video: “Hierarchies of Victimhood”

March 17, 2014:  Prof. Brandon Hamber
“Hierarchies of Victimhood: The Challenge of Policy Interventions Aimed at Alleviating the Suffering of Victims of Political Violence”
Click here for video

Transitional Justice in the Arab Region: Between Complexities and Standardization

A Conversation with Habib Nassar:

Please join the Transitional Justice Network for a conversation with Middle East expert Habib Nassar about the latest developments in transitional justice in the Arab region.

Please note the discussion will start at 6:00 p.m. and will take place this Thursday, November 21 in the New York Law School Boardroom, W204.

Transitional Justice in the Arab Region: Between Complexities and Standardization

A Conversation with Habib Nassar:

Please join the Transitional Justice Network for a conversation with Middle East expert Habib Nassar about the latest developments in transitional justice in the Arab region.

Please note the discussion will start at 6:00 p.m. and will take place this Thursday, November 21 in the New York Law School Boardroom, W204. 
Link for flyer can be found below.
Director for Middle East and North Africa
Habib Nassar is the director for the Middle East and North Africa and is responsible for developing PILnet’s programs in the region. He has 15 years of experience working on human rights and transitional justice in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Before joining PILnet in October 2012, he worked with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNDP as a senior transitional justice adviser for the Middle East and North Africa in 2012. Prior to that, Nassar worked at the International Center for Transitional Justice for almost 6 years. He first served as senior associate in charge of North Africa, focusing mostly on Morocco and Algeria. Between 2009 and 2012, he managed the MENA program and led its expansion to the Arab Spring countries.  Before joining ICTJ, Nassar worked for several local and international human rights groups. He worked as a MENA researcher for the Human Rights Defenders Program at New York-based Human Rights First. In Beirut, he was the secretary general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections working on elections monitoring and reform. Nassar also served as legal advisor and board member of the Committee of the Families of the Abducted and Missing Persons in Lebanon through which he worked on a strategy for addressing the problem of the “missing” during the war. He was an associate attorney at the Takla, Trad, and Daouk Law Firm in Beirut between 1998 and 2004. Nassar has a LL.M. from New York University School of Law, a post-graduate degree of Advanced Studies (DEA) in international law from Université Paris II and a law degree from Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut.

Brazil’s reckoning with transitional justice

On November 14, 2014, please join the New York Law School Transitional Justice Network for a conversation with Brazilian Transitional Justice Expert Marcelo D. Torelly about Brazil’s amnesty dilemma for dictatorship-era criminals.

This event is co-sponsored by the NYLS Institute for Global Law, Justice and Policy and the ASIL Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Interest Group; and chaired by Professor Ruti Teitel, the Ernst C. Stiefel Professor of Comparative Law at New York Law School.

Marcelo D. Torelly is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School. He has been Advisor, Brazilian Ministry of Justice on Transitional Justice issues, as well as Manager, Transitional Justice Exchange and Development Program, and has taught theory and philosophy of law at Brasilia Catholic University.


Thursday November 14, 2013


6:15pm – 8:00pm


New York Law School

185 West Broadway (corner of Leonard Street)

Boardroom, W204 (2nd Floor)

New York, New York 10013

* Light refreshments will be served.



A Reflection on the International Criminal Court with Luis Moreno Ocampo

On April 16, 2013, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court visited New York Law School to discuss the dilemmas currently confronting the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr. Ocampo began the discussion by reflecting on the evolution of the Court since its inception in 2002 and the unique challenges he faced as the first Chief Prosecutor of the Court, such as selecting which issues the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) should handle first.  Mr. Ocampo and his colleagues at the OTP were guided by three policies in making the decision: respecting the principle of complementarity, fulfilling the Court’s mandate to prevent future crimes and punishing the most responsible individuals.  Read more >>

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Planning for Transitional Justice in Syria

For the past two years the world has watched as the conflict in Syria has grown. What began as street protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government in 2011 has escalated into a civil war, as the opposition to the Syrian government has become an organized military and political force in Syria. Given the nearly impossible task of collecting evidence of human rights violations after fact, there has been action by groups outside Syria who are already planning a transitional justice framework for a post-Assad Syria. With the UN Security Council condemning the Syrian government, the UN General Assembly calling for President al-Assad to resign and the U.S., Britain, France and Turkey officially recognizing the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people,” is now the appropriate time for the Syrian people to create a framework for transitional justice? Read more >>

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Revisiting the Arab Spring: Justice in Times of Transition

Mr. Habib Nassar, a prominent human rights attorney and transitional justice advocate with 10 years of experience in the Middle East and in North Africa, visited New York Law School on February 28th, 2013 to discuss the political conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and the evolving trends of transitional justice resulting from these conflicts.


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Is transitional justice a measurement of democracy?


Current definitions of democracies often focus on electoral process and victory, but might not the response to past repression be more important? A number of the world’s countries have a legacy of corrupted political institutions and repressive governments. Today, many of these countries including Egypt, Syria and Tunisia are rising from these legacies. Since the post-communist world, democracy has been promoted as the governance system the above-mentioned countries should transition to for a peaceful future. More recently, societies and international development actors have begun to use transitional justice to effectuate the desire for societal stability, political transformation and trust among men, women and children who have ill-suffered during these legacies. Read more >>