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Vasantha Kumari


Vasantha is an independent women’s rights activist from India, who has been working to better the condition of women and political prisoners, bringing light to the multiple atrocities faced by them. She was involved in several fact-findings with an All India Women’s team to uncover the conditions surrounding dowry deaths, honor killings, sexual violence on women and female infanticide. Over the last decade, she has been involved in defending the rights of political prisoners, who are being unfairly incarcerated utilizing draconian laws such as UAPA and AFSPA, and has been personally fighting for the release of her husband Dr. G.N. Saibaba, who is also a human rights defender. She is presently residing in New Delhi.

Human rights defenders in India face a diverse range of attacks and harassment from state and non-state actors alike, including killing, physical assault, arbitrary detention, threats and judicial harassment. Police officials are often the perpetrators of violence against HRDs, which is usually carried out with impunity. Armed groups and private companies also target HRDs for work related to economic development projects and their impact on the local communities or the environment. HRDs are increasingly the targets of online smear campaigns by radical nationalists.

HRDs making use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act are liable to be killed, assaulted or harassed for exercising their fundamental right to demand and receive information from public authorities. Women HRDs are targeted with gender-specific threats – death, gang rape or acid attacks – both online and offline. They are particularly vulnerable in regions with a heavy presence of the military and armed groups. In the Red Corridor, a region in East India experiencing Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, HRDs, including lawyers, researchers and journalists face acts of intimidation and persecution and work under tremendous pressure from authorities, rebels, and vigilante groups. People defending the rights of marginalised communities such as the Adivasi and the Dalit can encounter death threats, destruction of their properties, fabricated charges, physical attacks, as well as caste-based discrimination by state and non-state actors alike.