‘Three years for rape is not enough’


Migrant lawyer Pallavi Sinha continues to maintain her ties with India, working with the Delhi-based National Human Rights Commission on several occasions.

Though born and brought up in Australia, Pallavi Sinha, a migrant lawyer and migration law lecturer at the Australian National University, and an accredited mediator and counsellor, says her Indian background has had so much of an impact on her that has been actively involved with the welfare of the Indian subcontinent community and broader ethnic community for over 20 years.

Trained in classical Indian dance, she has also organised and participated in a range of sub continental cultural programs and forums and been the MC for the United Indian Associations (UIA) India-Australia Friendship fair at the Sydney Olympic Park.

Pallavi has also been an active writer for Indian subcontinent newspapers for more than 12 years on topics such as social justice and women’s rights.

In 2012, she was interviewed by ABC news and SBS about the gang-rape of a young girl in Delhi. She has also worked in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and women’s shelters in Delhi.

“When I worked with the NHRC I came across a lot of cases of women being harassed including violence against women in the form of gang-rape, female foeticide, dowry deaths and domestic violence as well. There is so much of crime against the women taking place and a lot of it remains unnoticed and unreported,” she says.
She said that there are numerous factors which have led to increased crime against women.

“There are a number of reasons why there is an increase in crime against women and it is to do with education and awareness. In the Hindu religion for instance women are treated equivalent to goddess and Indian culture has a great respect for women. But even after coming from so rich cultural roots, there is something wrong in the society and with individuals. I think proper knowledge and awareness is not being imparted to the children in primary schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions,” adds Pallavi.

She believes the laws in India are not strong enough. “As a lawyer, I personally hold very strong opinion that three years’ imprisonment for a juvenile who has committed such a heinous crime like rape is not enough,” says Pallavi.

“There is a problem with the judicial system as we have a large population in India and there are not enough judges and courts and so many cases are not being heard. Due to the stigma associated with the rape, most of the cases go unreported. Now after the media has started taking interest and helplines have been set up, the conditions are improving,” says Pallavi.

Elaborating on her role as Australian Ambassador, Pallavi says, “As a people of Australia Ambassador I am very passionate about promoting multiculturalism. I act as a messenger between the public and government.”
Pallavi says there is a wide range of problems that migrants face such as lack of awareness of their rights, family violence, problems in sponsoring someone, and little access to the right resources. “They hardly know where to go and whom to approach, so being a migrant lawyer I help mitigate their problems,” says Pallavi.

“As Indians are coming here in large numbers, the number of people applying for protection visas has also increased. There are many genuine cases that have to confront caste issues, political threats, religious issues. They come as asylum seekers and later apply for protection visas. I have personally assisted many such cases,” adds Pallavi.

About her Indian background, she says, “My parents were actively involved in community services and that is also one of the reasons I am so involved now. I visit India quite frequently and while working with the NHRC I was closely involved with the Indian society, so I have a special bond with India.”

Pallavi was formerly on a Regional Advisory Council to the Community Relations Commission, a member of the Transcultural Mental Health Committee, an Executive Committee Member of the Ethnic Communities Council and Vice-President Ashoka (Sydney University Indian Society).

Pallavi was unanimously elected as Chairperson of Immigrant Women’s Association (IWSA). In this role, she has given speeches on issues relating to women, including unique issues faced by women from the Indian subcontinent such as family violence and cultural identity.

She will be speaking about the topic racism and women at a symposium that IWSA is organising with the Australian Human Rights Commission on 17 October at NSW Parliament House, which will be have high level representatives talking about racism being suffered by women.

She will speak on gender and migration at “Gondwanalandings: Voices of the Emerging Indian Diaspora in Australia (2013 Australia India Institute Flagship Event)” in September 2013.

She has been invited to speak as part of Women in Business Panel at the 2013 Regional Pravasi Bhartiya Divas Convention in Sydney.

Her community work has been recognised by a number of organisations including the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin who presented her with a Community Services award in 2012. She was also awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for Services from the UIA and a trophy for involvement with the Indian subcontinent community from Australia-India Cultural Promotions.

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