Through her scholarly interest is in the intersection of religious freedom and women’s equality, Professor Natasha Bakht has distinguished herself across a range of important legal areas that affect religious minorities and racialized people. In recognition of the impact of her work on South Asian communities, the South Asian Bar Association (SABA) has awarded Professor Bakht its 2019 Legal Excellence Award.
Through her research and community involvement, Professor Bakht has actively worked to strengthen awareness, understanding and dialogue on matters of public importance, such as the place of religious minorities in Canada. In both her research and her community involvement, she works to counter misconceptions about Islam and Muslims and the rights of religious women. For example, her research has explored the growing trend in western liberal democracies to prohibit women who wear the niqab (or full face veil) from participating in critical aspects of public life. Her research and writing over the last decade about these women has encouraged understanding and reduced stigma about a garment that has too often provoked visceral xenophobia and restrictive regulations.
Professor Bakht is also an award-winning dancer and choreographer working in the area of Indian contemporary dance. Believing that art provides a space for intuitive responses to injustice, she creates artistic works with the themes of social justice at the forefront, allowing the viewer to see, hear and feel harm viscerally and inviting empathy with the “other.” She has performed internationally and regularly receives arts grants from every level of government.
The South Asian Bar Association began as a gathering space for a small group of South Asian lawyers in the early 2000s. Today, SABA Toronto has grown to be the largest diverse bar association in the country. The SABA awards celebrate the contributions of South Asian lawyers to the legal profession, honouring leadership, excellence and commitment to the cause of diversity.
Congratulations to Professor Bakht on this special achievement!