Sayoni Maitra

  • Hosted by Sanctuary for Famililes
  • Sponsored by Baker McKenzie, Verizon Foundation
  • Service location New York
  • Law school Columbia Law School
  • Issue area Domestic Violence
  • Fellowship class year 2013
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Sayoni advanced protections for forced marriage victims and survivors in the New York metropolitan area through immigration representation and holistic support, outreach, and policy advocacy.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

Stories of women and girls who are forced into marriages or brutalized by relatives for refusing to marry are surfacing in the news with frequency. Few know, however, that forced marriages affect women and girls right here in New York City. While some individuals actively seek legal assistance, there is a significant hidden population at risk, particularly in South Asian communities. Victims and survivors often avoid reporting forced marriage because of fears of racial profiling and deportation, as well as dependence on abusive relatives due to their young age or immigration status. Providing tailored, coordinated, and comprehensive legal services, coupled with culturally aware community outreach and holistic support, will help numerous victims escape the cycle of gender violence, build independent lives, and remain in the U.S. without fear.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Sayoni has:
• Provided representation to around 60 individuals in the United States and nearly 40 children overseas in immigration and family reunification matters
• Conducted workshops on forced marriage issues with high school and college counselors, crisis shelter staff, various service providers, law enforcement, and judges
• Partnered with the national Forced Marriage Working Group to present proposals to the White House and federal agencies to expand protections and resources for forced marriage victims
• Collaborated with Verizon and Baker & McKenzie on a pro bono project analyzing elements of force, fraud, and coercion under U.S. and foreign forced marriage and trafficking laws

Where are they now?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Sayoni will provide and supervise pro bono representation as a Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families, to victims of gender violence in asylum cases.

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