Theme: Women’s Rights

The Women’s Rights Thematic Group arranged its first event in early 2015; lawyers from The Gambia and Uganda spoke on public interest litigation in those countries and under regional human rights law instruments. Since then, Lawyers Against Poverty has funded strategic litigation in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in relation to violence against women and the culture of police impunity (read below for further details), supported campaigns and welcomed speakers to events on various topics including global sex trafficking.

Women’s rights is a cross-cutting issue which enters into the work of other groups, including the Refugee and Twinning Thematic Groups. The Refugees Thematic Group held a series of workshops on employment, criminal and family law for women refugees in Oxford and the first Twinning Programme was established between the League of Women Lawyers in Tajikistan and members of Lawyers Against Poverty.

Read about our activities below.

Women and girls in Jordan at risk of financial hardship and violence under Covid-19 lockdown

The Covid-19 outbreak and consequent lockdowns produce a disproportionately negative impact on already vulnerable groups around the world. For poor and vulnerable women in Jordan, current social isolation measures cause economic hardship and exacerbates the risk of domestic violence. Restrictions on movement necessitated by the lockdown limits both the means of escaping domestic violence and the availability of support, whilst risk of violence is increased by fear and economic pressures. These women urgently need access to legal services.

What is the situation in Jordan?

Cases of Covid-19 hit Jordan in early March 2020, resulting in restrictions being imposed including a stringent lockdown. Whilst necessary to control the disease, the lockdown and associated diversion of resources necessary to deal with the health emergency leaves other public services under-resourced particularly in the health and justice sector. Poor and vulnerable women, especially those relying on alimony payments and/or suffering from abuse are badly affected.

Income streams are limited due to the closure of public and private sector operations. This reduction in income, coupled with restrictions on movement and closure of banks and court services, all hinder divorced women from accessing their alimony payments. In such cases, women are unable to afford basic necessities such as food and medical care for their families. For abused women, lack of finances or support removes their means of escape. Victims of domestic abuse are trapped with their abusers, making it very difficult to report incidents, seek medical attention and access legal protection.

How can access to justice be improved?

Oxfam, through its Jordanian partner the Justice Centre for Legal Aid (JCLA), is addressing the urgent need for increased protection of vulnerable women including through access to legal services. JCLA is a not-for-profit legal aid organisation operating across 16 clinics in Jordan. Their staff of lawyers and community facilitators provide support through consultations, legal representation and public awareness campaigns (visit their website for more information). The lockdown prevents face-to-face operations at a time of increased demand for legal services. Meanwhile, JCLA’s funding has reduced.

In response to the Covid-19 emergency JCLA are adapting their services to provide legal protection of vulnerable women through remote and direct services whilst ensuring that interactions are safe for advisers and clients alike. Funding is urgently required to enable their operations to continue and adapt through the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond.

How much is needed?

The Protection Response programme will cost almost £140,000 to cover activities such as:

  • Setting up a hotline including cost of technology and software
  • Lawyers and community facilitators to provide legal advice, representation and support
  • Office healthcare supplies including PPE to ensure safety of staff and service users
  • Laptops and software to enable remote service provision
  • Emergency cash support for beneficiaries
  • Vehicle costs for remote service provision
  • Training and development costs

If you would like to contribute to the costs of this project please contact us for more information.  Together we can help protect poor and vulnerable women in Jordan by ensuring legal support continues to be available.

Strategic Litigation for Women’s Rights

On 17 May 2018, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (the Court of Justice) ruled in favour of the complainants in ECW/CCJ/APP/26/15 – WARDC and IHRDA (on behalf of Mary Sunday) v Nigeria. This is a very significant victory for victims of domestic violence in Nigeria and more widely.

The case was brought on behalf of Mary Sunday, a victim of a violent attack by her fiancé, by the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC). Lawyers Against Poverty supported them with a contribution from members of $30,000.

In August 2012, Mary was attacked and beaten by her fiancé, sustaining multiple and severe injuries and burns (she was set on fire by a stove he had thrown over her head and body). Because her fiancé was a serving police officer, police inquiries into the incident manifestly were not carried out in an impartial and independent manner and concluded that she had intentionally inflicted the injuries upon herself. Her fiancé was never charged.

The IHRDA and the WARDC submitted that the failure of state authorities effectively to investigate the allegations and prosecute the perpetrator constituted a violation of the victim’s rights under (inter alia) the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Maputo Protocol, including the rights to dignity and freedom from torture, the right to a remedy and the right to freedom from discrimination.

The Court of Justice held that Nigeria had violated the right to an effective remedy as well as the right of access to justice and the right to be heard (although, regrettably, not the right to freedom from discrimination). It ordered Nigeria to pay Mary compensation of 15 million Naira (approximately $41,500) , which we understand will be used for reconstructive surgery.

The case affirms the principle that states are required to prevent violations by non-state actors, safeguard vulnerable individuals, investigate and prosecute perpetrators and compensate victims. Our hope is that it will make material advances in enforcing the rule of law, increasing state accountability and ending police impunity for violence against women and other offences.

News and Blog

  • COVID-19 and its Impact on Human Rights: a discussion with Oxfam.  Tuesday 21 July 2020, 1900-2030.  Free webinar. Join LAP for a discussion with Oxfam around COVID-19 and its Impact on Human Rights. The Covid-19 pandemic has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives and could also force millions into poverty.  The impacts of the virus – and the response to it – are disproportionately affecting disadvantaged people across the globe. The UN has highlighted ...
  • Report on Lawyers Against Poverty and our guest speakers event on 14 November 2019 Report on Lawyers Against Poverty and guest speakers event, November 2019 On 14 November Lawyers Against Poverty hosted an evening of talks on the topic: How lawyers can use their legal skills in order to promote rule of law and access to justice. This discussion took place in the context of women’s rights and refugee support. We ...
  • FGM According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), with three million at risk every year. FGM is defined as the removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons (whether complete or incomplete) and today is carried out ...
  • Advancing Women’s Rights Through Strategic Litigation and Other Tools   On Wednesday 28 November, Lawyers Against Poverty hosted a discussion on the tools we can use most effectively to advance and assert women’s rights. We heard firstly from Naomi Passman, one of the members of our women’s rights working group. As an introduction, she shared with us a series of facts which made eminently clear the ...
  • Advancing Women’s Rights Through Strategic Litigation and Other Tools   Many women in the world today suffer disadvantage and discrimination, marginalisation and violence. One in three will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime and only 52% of women who are married or in a relationship freely make decisions about contraception and healthcare. Globally, 750 million women and girls were married before 18 ...

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