Legal aid desks expanded

May 9, 2011

Legal aid desks expanded

The UNDP Enhancing Access to Justice for Consolidation for Peace in Nepal Project (A2J) project has expanded its legal aid desks in 3 more districts ?Dhanusha, Mahottari and Sarlahi in 2011, in addition to the existing 4 desks in Kathmandu, Kaski, Banke and Morang districts. 

This initiative in collaboration with the Supreme Court Nepal Bar Association and the Nepal Police Women and Children Service Center, will allow the victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) to report their cases confidently and bring the perpetrators to justice. These are generally cases which would have gone under-reported due to the survivors? fear of retaliation, stigmatization or further victimization. 

The legal aid desks seek to build public trust, offer legal counseling and case filing in addition to offering women lawyers with valuable opportunities to build their professional career. Past records have shown that the authorities are often reluctant to pursue investigations into SGBV cases and even do not accept the lodging of First Information Reporting (FIR). Moreover, the victims and their families are often mistreated when they attempt to avail themselves of judicial remedies. 

From May 2009 - December 2010, a total of 1277 women especially from disadvantaged and socially excluded groups have received free legal aid service for domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, trafficking, early marriage, disappearance, abduction, peace and security, witchcraft, polygamy and other family dispute cases.

Understanding gender justice mechanisms, human rights instruments including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) is very important for lawyers and women police personnel as they are the first source of legal recourse for survivors of gender based violence. 

With the objective to enhance the capacity to deal with the cases related to SGBV effectively, the Access to Justice project organised a 5-day training on "Gender Based Discrimination and Gender Issues" for women legal aid lawyers and police personnel. Among them 18 were from the legal profession and 12 from Nepal Police. 

The participants enhanced their knowledge on the normative including the National Action Plan Against Gender Based Violence, International and Regional Legal Frameworks related to GBV, CEDAW and its optional protocol, Judicial Responses for the Protection of Women Rights, Convention on the Rights of Child, the mandate and functions of Women and Children Service Centre of Nepal Police, the importance of reporting, case documentation, appreciative inquiry and planning.

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