March 29, 2023 Update: Due to a newly scheduled trial date at the Supreme Court of India, Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju are unable to attend the medalist events. The April 12 talk at the Law School has been canceled.

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, who have advanced LGBT rights as lawyers in India, have been named this year’s recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law.

Sponsored jointly by the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals are awarded each year to recognize the achievements of those who embrace endeavors in which Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence, third U.S. president and founder of the University of Virginia — excelled and held in high regard. The law medal, and its counterparts in architecture, citizen leadership and global innovation, are UVA’s highest external honors.

“Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju have worked tirelessly to advance equality and LGBT rights in India, the world’s largest democracy,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “I’m thrilled to celebrate their achievements and for our students to learn more about their groundbreaking work and careers.”

While they are in Charlottesville to receive their medals, Guruswamy and Katju will participate in a conversation with Goluboff on April 12 at 1 p.m. in the Law School’s Caplin Pavilion.

Guruswamy and Katju represented plaintiffs in a landmark 2018 ruling in which the Supreme Court of India unanimously decriminalized homosexuality by striking down a colonial-era anti-sodomy law. The petition was the first time LGBT Indians had challenged the law as a violation of their fundamental rights. In recognition of their success, Guruswamy and Katju were named among TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2019. In a current case before the Supreme Court of India, Guruswamy and Katju are representing clients seeking same-sex marriage rights.

Guruswamy, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, has also worked on cases related to white-collar defense, constitutional law, corporate law and arbitration. Guruswamy was the B.R. Ambedkar Research Scholar and Lecturer at Columbia Law School from 2017-19. She has also been a visiting faculty member at Yale Law School, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and New York University School of Law where she taught comparative constitutional law. She has been featured in Foreign Policy’s 100 Global Thinkers List and was honored by Harvard Law School in 2019, as part of Women Inspiring Change.

Katju, a lawyer practicing in Indian trial and appellate courts, has worked on cases including white-collar defense, commercial law, and legal aid in addition to LGBT rights litigation. In 2015, Guruswamy and Katju represented a transgender man brought from the United States to India by his parents so he could be “reformed.” They successfully persuaded the Delhi High Court to force his parents to return his travel documents, and the court reaffirmed the man’s civil rights.

Guruswamy earned law degrees from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, Harvard Law School and the National Law School of India University. Katju earned law degrees from the National Law School of India University and Columbia Law School, where she was a Human Rights Fellow and a recipient of the Women’s International Leadership Program Fellowship at International House. She also received Columbia Law School’s Herman N. Finkelstein Memorial Fellowship.

At the April 12 talk, which is open to the public, lunch will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking will be available in the Law School’s D2 and D3 lots.

Past Jefferson Medal in Law Recipients

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