MacArthur Awards for Creative & Effective Institutions

Socio Legal Information Centre

New Delhi, India | 2013 Award Recipient

Ensuring legal rights for the marginalized in India

With more than 70 percent of India’s population living on less than a dollar per day, using the courts to protect fundamental rights is not a realistic option for most Indians. Nevertheless, India's courts can ensure that the government respects, protects, and promotes the fundamental rights of the nation’s most marginalized people. Legal action is a powerful tool for securing justice for women, youth, and the poor facing violence or discrimination.

The Socio Legal Information Centre (SLIC) provides free legal assistance to people who lack the capacity to approach the courts for redress. SLIC files more than 100 petitions each year to protect the health, dignity, and rights of India’s citizens. With a presence in 25 of India’s 28 states, SLIC is one of India’s largest, most active legal human rights programs and runs the country’s only reproductive rights unit.

In collaboration with partner organizations and individuals, SLIC has helped transform the lives of thousands of people, especially pregnant women. Legal petitions filed by SLIC have helped ensure that women who give birth in public health facilities have access to safe delivery services and adequate nutrition and that the state investigates instances of maternal mortality. In a landmark case, the organization helped gain court recognition of reproductive rights as fundamental human rights.

SLIC started in 1991 when young lawyers began organizing slum dwellers in Bombay; it has a long history of going to court for the poor, the “untouchable” dalit class, and youth who live on the streets. Today, the organization has more than 180 lawyers who provide free legal representation to those facing the harshest realities of life in India. Each year, they bring judges, doctors, and activists together to collaborate and strategize on legal issues concerning human and reproductive rights.

SLIC will use its $750,000 MacArthur Award to purchase an office and training space for their reproductive rights unit in New Delhi and to build a reserve fund, providing health insurance for its staff and emergency assistance for staff and volunteers harmed in the field.

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