Maryam Namazie and Afsana Lachaux were joint winners of the 2019 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize for their campaigning work in support of women under Sharia laws. The award recognised the links with Sharia and religious laws and violence against women.
Afsana Lachaux has spent the past five years campaigning for women’s access to justice. After having to flee Dubai, and whilst continuing to fight for the return of her son, Afsana has successfully campaigned for the FCO to include warnings to women about the potential impact of sharia law in travel guidance, as well as fighting an important defamation case brought against her by her ex-husband.
Maryam Namazie was the first public female atheist from a Muslim background in the UK. Maryam began campaigning over a decade ago and has always focused on the issues of women from Muslim backgrounds. Her work challenges both sex inequality within Islam as well as the additional difficulties that women face after leaving Islam.
Emma Humphreys was a writer, campaigner and survivor of male violence who fought an historic struggle to overturn a murder conviction in 1995, supported by Justice for Women and other feminist campaigners. The annual prize is awarded to an individual woman who has, through writing or campaigning, raised awareness of violence against women and children.
Lilly Lewis, Magdalen Berns and Meena Patel of Southall Black Sisters also received awards and recognition for their important work.
Lilly Lewis is a survivor and campaigner who has done her campaigning work over the last three years despite being incarcerated. After being sentenced to seven year’s imprisonment in 2016 she began to work with APPEAL’s Women’s Justice Initiative to use her story to campaign about the treatment of abused women by the criminal justice system. A peer mentor in custody, and a mentor for at risk young people when on day release, she intends to continue her campaigning after her release in December 2019.
Magdalen Berns was a campaigner for lesbian and other women’s rights. She produced YouTube videos in defence of women’s private spaces and sex specific rights. She had a wide reach in introducing new women to radical feminism and faced down a lot of hostility for publicising her views. Magdalen died in September 2019, aged 36.
Meena Patel joined Southall Black Sisters in 1987. Since then she has spearheaded SBS’ campaigns to raise awareness of the violence experienced by Black and ethnic minority women. She also runs SBS’ survivor involvement work, and helps other women to politicise their experiences: many of these women have gone on to campaign with SBS. Meena was a key player in the campaign to free Kiranjit Ahluwalia. She also led an impromptu demonstration of SBS service users against the Home Office’s racist ‘Go Home’ vans in 2013, giving strength to service users and illustrating to other services the value of publicly opposing injustice.