Maitreyi - second from right

Maitreyi Gupta, NLSIU alumni, is currently working at International Commission of Jurists – New Delhi. In this exclusive interview with she talked about her experiences of working with Indira Jaising, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, pursuing LLM in Human Rights from USA on a full scholarship, among other things.

What made you choose law?

I enjoyed reading. I valued language. I valued the power of words. The idea of being able to identify the rules of the society and then shift those rules was very exciting to me.

Growing up I would see that there were distinctions in how men and women are treated. But the challenges were how to verbalize it and verbalizing it isn’t generally allowed in the society that I came from. Law gave me route to verbalize those ideas. It gave me a very concrete way to think about it, and then also attempt to shift it. Many of the professional choices I have made, have been choices where I get to use law as a tool to advance social justice.

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How was your life at National Law School, Bangalore?

It’s a very competitive space. Looking back, I wish it would have been different. I wish people from all regions are equally well represented. It’s a very elitist space, which is accessible only to those who are from the uppermost class of the society.

So, that is very troubling and that certainly has an impact on your social life.

Having said that, what law school did teach me was what you can achieve, if you do your best; because people there worked very hard. They taught me the value of hard work.

Would you like to suggest students how to choose Internships?

In our days, we could choose an NGO or we could choose a corporate space, what I would suggest to a law student is to do varied internships,, unless and until they know exactly what they want from the beginning. It’s the only opportunity where you can try different things.

For instance, I became an international human rights lawyer because in my second year I interned with Majdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan a grass-root movements which had an enormous impact on me. But that was not my goal when I went in. I just went there because I was curious, and it seemed like an interesting thing to do.

How was your experience working at IFMR Capital Finance Pvt. Ltd?

It was not a corporate firm. It was a micro finance and securitization organization. It was a new organization then and it had recruited people from all over the world and from different professions. So, it was a very diverse work culture and it was a great place to be.

I was doing banking law but I was interested in human rights; this is why I left.

How would you describe your experiences while working with Indira Jaising?

She is the most inspiring women I know. Indira Jaising was also the additional solicitor general of India at that time and she does such important things so you get to be a part of that. She is also a good teacher, so fortunately I got to learn from her first-hand.

I worked at the Lawyer Collective (an NGO run by Indira and her husband) as a research and advocacy officer. So while I was there I did a lot of research work on marital rape, laws on sexual violence, and I also worked on criminal law amendment act 2013 where we sent recommendations to the government and the Justice Verma Committee.

While hiring new lawyers, Indira Jaising looks for your ability to analyze law, comprehend it, your ability to give well written output, and your knowledge of the constitutional law.

What made you go for LLM in International Human Rights Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School?

I’m currently serving as an international human rights lawyer and I wanted to do international human rights law. I thought it would further cement my knowledge, by the time I went for an LLM I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve from my career. This is why I took a few years to go for my masters.

Did you get any Scholarships?

I would recommend students that if you get a full scholarship go to the US, if can’t, go to a country where the price is reasonable.

I had a full scholarship – the Inlaks scholarship and a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania. It did not had any restrictions. Many scholarships require you to come back to your country immediately and work for 3-4 years.

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Which factors affect in getting a scholarship?

There is no one way to get a scholarship or to get an admission. You have to write your statement of purpose while applying. So, they will look at it and they will try to identify what your story is and why you want to study further.

How was it to work at GAATW?

It was my only non-legal job. I worked there as a researcher and advocacy officer.

It’s an alliance of about eighty organizations who are smaller but well connected with the community. Bangkok serves as a regional hub for Asia-Pacific for the UN. So there is a lot of regional level human rights diplomacy work that happen in Bangkok.

At GAATW, you basically act as a link between the smaller, organizations, who are GAATW members, and those who are working in the UN or the government, etc.

GAATW works against trafficking – labour trafficking and sex trafficking, and looks at women migrant workers.

What do you think is the future of Human Rights in India?

I think it’s absolutely critical to be working in India in the human rights space now. The government is trying ruthlessly to oppress voices. More and more people need to stand up together and highlight the  human rights violations being committed daily.

What would be your role at the International Commission of Jurists?

I would be the international legal advisor for India. My role would be to look at accountability in different areas. I would also be working around sexual orientation and gender identity. The idea is to  expand the ambit of the rights that are available to the LGBT community in India.

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