India’s ‘Parrot Lady’ to fly back home

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently handed over to his counterpart, Narendra Modi, the 800-year old Indian sandstone sculpture of a woman holding a parrot.


Details about the Sculpture:

  • The three-foot high statue of ‘Parrot Lady’ turned up in Canada in 2011 in the possession of an individual who did not have proper documentation; it was seized under the Cultural Property Export and Import which controls antiquities and other cultural objects being imported from foreign states.
  • The sculpture dates back to the 12th century.
  • The Parrot Lady is what is known as a naayika, or heroine. She is voluptuous, scantily clad, posed in a manner that is a tad saucy, and has a parrot on her back. She is just one of many erotic stone ladies that were created to adorn the Khajuraho temples.
  • It was returned in accordance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

1970 UNESCO Convention:

  • The UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property is an international treaty.
  • It is the first international instrument dedicated to the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property.
  • It was adopted at the 16th General Conference of UNESCO on 14 November 1970 in Paris and came into force on 24 April 1972.
  • 127 states are parties to the treaty.

The provisions contained in the 1970 Convention aim to protect cultural property against theft and looting while emphasizing the restitution of such items. The Convention stresses three main principles for States to follow.

  1. Preventive measures Firstly, States Parties are requested to Take preventive measures to impede the illicit import and export of cultural property from their territory.
    • These measures include,
      1. Among others,
      2. Inventories,
      3. Export certificates,
      4. Monitoring of trade,
      5. Imposition of penal or administrative sanctions
      6. Educational programs.
  2. Restitution provisions (Art.7 of the Convention) Secondly, States are requested to return cultural property. Under the restitution provisions of the Convention, States Parties take appropriate steps to recover and return cultural property illicitly stolen from the territory of another State party to the Convention and imported into their territory after the entry into force of this Convention for both States concerned. Innocent purchasers and persons with a valid claim to such cultural property are entitled to a just compensation. Restitution requests are made through diplomatic offices.
  3. International cooperation Lastly, the Convention strives to Set up an international cooperation framework to strengthen ties between States Parties to the Convention. In particular, such cooperation allows for States whose cultural heritage is in jeopardy due to pillaging of archaeological or ethnological materials, to ask other affected States for assistance, through the creation of import and export controls and general measures to prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

Under the provisions of the 1970 Convention, a State Party can seek the recovery and return of any illegally exported or stolen cultural property imported into another State Party only after the entry into force of this Convention in both States concerned. However, the 1970 Convention does not in any way legitimize any illegal transaction of any nature which has taken place before the entry into force of this Convention nor limit any right of a State to make a claim under provisions of relevant national legislation or international instruments.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.