Neeru Chadha, the First Indian Woman Member of ITLOS, Is #Goals
Dr Neeru Chadha has been elected to the ITLOS for a nine-year term. Her appointment is a major win for Indian women.
Dr Neeru Chadha has become the first Indian woman to be a member of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The eminent lawyer, and the first Indian woman to become the chief legal adviser in the Ministry of External Affairs, was elected to the ITLOS for a nine-year term from 2017 to 2026.
Dr Chadha won the election on 14 June with 120 votes, the highest in the Asia Pacific group and was elected in the first round of voting itself. The candidate from Indonesia got 58 votes, Lebanon 60 and Thailand 86.
All three candidates went to a second round of voting, during which Thailand won the other seat in the Asia Pacific group. The polls were held for a total of seven seats.
If you’re wondering who Dr Chadha is and why you haven’t heard of her before, here’s some context. Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone became household names when they were accused of shooting dead two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012, leading to one of the biggest diplomatic crises that Italy and India had seen in years.
The incident led to a long diplomatic battle that also went to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.
Dr Chadha was India’s lead agent at the court at the time.
The election victory makes Chadha the first Indian woman in a top UN position after Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, who famously served as the President of the United Nations General Assembly.
She also represented India in the 2016 ICJ hearings when the Marshall Islands accused India of not taking its disarmament obligations seriously as a nuclear weapons state.
Dr Chadha was the first woman Chief Adviser to the Ministry of External Affairs and graduated from the University of Michigan and the University of Delhi. She was part of the Legal and Treaties Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, which advises the government on matters pertaining to international law. She went on to become its head in 2012.
While Dr Chadha herself is a fine example of a woman breaking the glass ceiling, she’s also aware of and vocal about the challenges posed by gender in society and professional life. Dr Chadha’s doctoral thesis advocated for a level playing field for women and while she believes that affirmative action may be necessary in the short term, she says paternalism in the long run will only do more harm than good.
Why Is This a Big Deal?
ITLOS is an intergovernmental body that was created by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The world’s oceans don’t fall under a single nation’s sovereign space and, so, need to be governed by all those who use them. This is where the Law of the Sea comes in and Dr Chadha is now part of the body that will deal with all matters concerning disputes regarding these laws.
While she may not be the first Indian member of ITLOS, her entry as the first Indian woman to the body is a significant #win for Indian women. Her solid credentials and the fact that she’s irrefutably deserving of the post are solid #goals for a lot of young women out there.
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