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Southall Black Sisters

Southall Black Sisters Director Pragna Patel at the Secular Conference 2014.

Southall Black Sisters (SBS) is a non-profit all-Asian organisation based in Southall, West London, England. This Asian women's group was established in August 1979 in the aftermath of the death of anti-fascist activist Blair Peach, who had taken part in a demonstration against a National Front rally at Southall Town Hall.[1][2] In 1980 SBS campaigned successfully against virginity testing in the UK, a policy which was being used to verify the authenticity of Asian marriages by checking the state of women's hymens.[3][4]


The SBS was originally established in order to provide a focus for the struggle of Asian women in the fight against racism, but became increasingly involved in defending the human rights of Asian women who are the victims of domestic violence and in campaigning against religious fundamentalism.[2]

Throughout most of its existence, the group's primary campaigners have been Pragna Patel, Meena Patel and Hannana Siddique.[2] Gita Sahgal, the writer and journalist (on issues of feminism, fundamentalism, and racism), film director, and human rights activist, has also been an active member of the organization.

They are best known for the role they played in the Ahluwalia case in 1989 when a woman named Kiranjit Ahluwalia set fire to her abusive husband. They supported her in the case, and were eventually successful.

In 2008 SBS won a legal challenge against Ealing Council who had threatened to withdraw their funding for black and other ethnic minority women in the borough, in order to fund services for all women regardless of ethnic background. The Council sought to justify its decision on the grounds of ‘equality’, ‘cohesion’ and ‘diversity’. [5][6]

Awards and recognitionEdit

In 2010 the organisation was awarded Secularist of the Year by the National Secular Society, in recognition of their support of black and Asian women's human rights.[7]

In July 2015, Pragna Patel was a co-recipient of the inaugural Bob Hepple Equality Award, alongside Mauro Cabral of GATE.[8] The award is named for Bob Hepple, the former lawyer of Nelson Mandela.[9] In 2011 she was named as one of the Top 100 Women Activists and Campaigners.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Benn, Melissa (27 July 2000). "Sisters of mercy". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c 'Against the Grain', SBS Tenth Anniversary book, 1989.
  3. ^ Sisters, Southall Black (16 November 2016). "SBS Timeline | Southall Black Sisters". Southall Black Sisters. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  4. ^ Gupta, Rahila (20 March 2008). "Sidelined Sisters". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  5. ^ Gupta, Rahila (20 March 2008). "Sidelined Sisters". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  6. ^ Sisters, Southall Black (16 November 2016). "Save Southall Black Sisters campaign (2008) | Southall Black Sisters". Southall Black Sisters. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Secularist of the Year prize awarded to Southall Black Sisters". National Secular Society. 14 February 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  8. ^ "The Inaugural Bob Hepple Equality Award Celebrates Equal Rights Activists and Advances Support to their Cause". Oxford Human Rights Hub. 21 July 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  9. ^ Law Society Gazette (July 2015). "Mandela lawyer award winner announced". Law Society Gazette. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  10. ^ Saner, Emine (8 March 2011). "Pragna Patel | Top 100 women". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  • Gupta Rahila (ed.) (2003) From Homebreakers to Jailbreakers: Southall Black Sisters London: Zed Books

External linksEdit