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Friday, December 8, 2023

Lawrence Liang, Founder of Alternative Law Forum, Found Guilty of Sexual Harassment

The Dean of Ambedkar University Delhi’s (AUD) law school, Lawrence Liang has been found guilty of sexually harassing a PhD student by the university’s Committee for Protection from Sexual Harassment (CPSH). His name was among the ones in the list of sexual offenders in Bharatiya academia posted on social media a few months ago.

Both the victim and the perpetrator were PhD students at the time of the incident. However Liang was already a well-known, established lawyer then. The victim felt that “it wasn’t that he didn’t understand her discomfort” about his advances without her consent, but that “he was unconcerned about it” after which she decided to keep the communications strictly professional. She filed the complaint after hearing about similar instances from one of his colleagues at Alternative Law Forum (ALF), an NGO founded by Liang.

When she came to know of his behaviour from the victim, she inquired among her co-workers and friends circle which revealed that he had a ‘reputation’ for such behaviour and that the interns at the organisation also were victims of his sexual pursuits.

The committee has ruled that Liang should be barred from holding any administrative posts for the next two years. He has been asked to step down from the post of Dean of the law school. The victim is dissatisfied with the committee’s recommendations and thinks of it as “punitive actions against a powerful academic and a person of authority”. However Liang has decided to appeal against the committee’s decisions and uses the holes in sexual harassment policies of AUD and ALF to justify his wrongdoings. He has told that he intends to “exhaust every channel open to him” to clear his name.

Alternative Law Forum is an FCRA-NGO operating out of Bengaluru. HIVOS-Netherlands, an organisation that works in the fields of women empowerment, freedom of speech, sexual rights and diversity etc. and Ford Foundation are the main donors of ALF. ALF is a local partner of HIVOS in Bharat.

Laing, a third-generation Chinese-Indian, is a ‘keen follower of the open source movement’. He is recognised as one of the key thinkers of the Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement by The Open Society Foundation which is funded by George Soros. Human Rights Watch, an NGO based in New York, funded ALF in 2011. HRW is a beneficiary of OSF and it testified as a witness in the Congressional Hearing on the Bharatiya government’s denial of FCRA license to Compassion International and putting it on Prior Permission list.

ALF was funded by Ford Foundation to ‘train and build a network of lawyers for enabling media access’.

Liang is also associated with Indian Cultural Forum which was formed to ‘resist the range of threats faced by our culture of free expression, exchange, dialogue and debate’. ICF was set up by the Indian Writers’ Forum which constitutes of Indira Jaising and Romila Thapar in its board. The advisory panel has Nayantara Sahgal (Nehru’s niece and progenitor of Award-Wapsi movement) and T.M.Krishna. ICF’s introduction says, ‘We insist on our right to use our imagination freely to produce what we see as meaningful for our times; and to speak and debate without hindrance, both to each other and to our readers and audience. This includes our right to interpret and reinterpret the past, and our common legacy of contesting narratives, whether in the form of myth, legend, lore or tale.’

Liang’s ALF along with another NGO Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) and the National Law School of India conducted a workshop on sedition laws and death of Freedom of Speech in 2011 whose main topic of discussion was the sedition charges against Arundhati Roy, Varavara Rao and S.A.R. Geelani, who spoke at a seminar on Kashmir titled ‘Azadi, the Only Way’. A booklet consisting the proposal for a bill to amend the existing laws on sedition was released as an outcome.

Liang was a member of the Drafting Committee of the Colombo Declaration on Free Speech and Media in 2008. Liang has vociferously objected to the government’s action against Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and other JNU students for their seditious speeches against the state. It was during one of his lectures in JNU in support of FoE of these people that he harassed the victim.

Liang was a contributor to the feminist site Kafila collective which objected to putting out the list of abusive Indian academics on social media. Kafila has announced that they will no longer carry Liang’s articles. Liang was announced as the Infosys Prize winner of 2017 after his name featured in the list of sexual predators.

(Credits to @by2kaafi & @zeneraalstuff )


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