‘We cannot lose hope, we should not lose hope.’
Navita Atreya, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers and Former Trustee of Southall Black Sisters, wrote about Pragna and her groundbreaking work:
At the age of 22 soon after graduating from university, Pragna founded Southall Black Sisters (SBS).
As the former director of SBS she remained in post for 40 years during which time the organization gained significant profile nationally and internationally recognized for its work as giving a voice to the most vulnerable and powerless women in society.
Pragna was involved in pioneering and precedent setting case work, policy campaign and strategic litigation concerning all forms of gender based violence including domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour based violence, sexual violence as well as issues of poverty, racism, mental health, policing, the legal aid, criminal and civil justice system.
The impact of Pragna’s work has been far reaching. She has the unique ability to think about how to improve the life of an individual but also about the bigger picture and how to tackle systemic failures and oppression. I have highlighted three significant areas of Pragna Patel’s direct impact 1) Kiranjit Ahluwalia 2) transnational spouse abandonment 3) domestic abuse and immigration policy.
Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a battered Asian woman who was imprisoned for life for killing her violent and abusive husband. Pragna visited Kiranjit Ahluwalia for two years, gathered detailed witness statements and worked closely with lawyers. Finally the murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal and there was a re-trial where the Crown accepted a plea of manslaughter and Kiranjit Ahluwalia was a free woman.. This was a landmark case which highlighted the discriminatory nature of the criminal justice system and eventually led to the abolition of provocation in the context of homicide on the basis it was not fit for purpose
Transnational spouse abandonment
Pragna turned her attention to women who were abandoned by their British Citizen spouses in their country of origins. She campaigned for it to treated as a form of domestic abuse it itself.
Pragna recently gave expert evidence in AM v SSHD  EWHC 2591 (Admin) in which the Court Lieven J, a High Court Judge recently ruled that the Home Office unlawfully discriminated against victims of domestic abuse abandoned outside the UK which interfered with their human rights. This is a victory for victims of transnational marriage abandonment who have successfully argued that they should be treated like their counterparts in the UK including the right to be able to apply for permanent residence on the basis of the abuse they suffered.
Domestic Violence and the immigration issues
Over the decades, SBS has consistently campaigned and lobbied for official recognition and accommodation of the particular circumstances of women with insecure immigration status who face domestic or other gender based violence.
Following tireless campaigns, in 2002, the Domestic Violence Rule (DV Rule) was introduced in immigration law to make it easier for migrant women to leave violent relationships and to apply to remain in the UK as victims of domestic violence. Subsequently, in April 2012, the Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (DDVC) was introduced to enable such women to apply for limited social security benefits and emergency housing pending their applications for settlement, thereby serving to mitigate the harsh effects of the NRPF policy.
Pragna Patel is a passionate, determined and longstanding campaigner and advocate of womens’ rights and freedom, particularly those women from black and minority communities for a more just and equal society. She has dedicated her entire working life to fighting oppression and injustice. She lives by the principle that any injustice is a threat to justice everywhere. She has advocated for and achieved significant change for the better for womens’ lives. She is an activist, deep thinker, prolific writer, strategic litigator, expert witness and inspirational speaker who has inspired generations of lawyers and activists.