Human Rights Watch's Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.
For more than two decades, Ratnaboli Ray has been a leading advocate for the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities (mental health conditions) in India, thousands of whom are confined to government institutions where they often endure abuse behind closed doors. Ray, who has faced stigma, discrimination, and threats due to her own mental health condition, is working to change that.
Born into a family of committed social activists, Ray worked with marginalized communities in Kolkata and West Bengal. After she had a breakdown in 1997, her employer forced her to resign. She has used her personal experience, including wrongfully being locked up in a mental hospital by union organizers trying to intimidate her, to push for a paradigm shift in government mental health institutions. In 2000, Ray founded Anjali, a small nongovernmental organization that provides skills training to people with psychosocial disabilities living in government institutions. Anjali has gained wide recognition for its innovative strategies for systemic change, including successfully challenging the use of solitary confinement and electroshock therapy without consent in West Bengal.