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Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific

by International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific

Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) Group of Experts Meeting 

Sisters For Change (SFC), on behalf of the EJA, invited ICAAD and other senior legal and policy experts to Singapore in April to share their technical expertise and personal experiences on the impact of discriminatory laws on women and girls within the Commonwealth, including the Pacific Island region where ICAAD has a significant gender-based violence (GBV) focus.
The Meeting included expert-led technical presentations on reforms within constitutional, criminal, anti-discrimination, and equality law, with key developments in reform of personal laws and sexual offence legislation. The nine independent legal experts included: 
  • Aruna Narain, Supreme Court Judge of Mauritius and CEDAW Committee Member, Mauritius
  • Chaloka Beyani, Professor of Law at the London School of Economics and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, U.K.
  • Aileen McColgan, Professor of Law at the University of Leeds and Barrister at 11KBW, U.K.
  • Marion Bethel, Attorney and CEDAW Committee Member, Bahamas
  • Florida Kabasinga, Managing Partner at Certa Law Chambers, Rwanda
  • Dianne Hubbard, Director of the Gender Research & Advocacy Project at the Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia
  • Sharon Murdock, Legislative Drafter at the Office of Legislative Counsel, Northern Ireland
  • Vrinda Grover, Supreme Court Advocate, India
  • Hansdeep Singh, Co-Founder of ICAAD, U.S.A.

SFC has also commissioned ICAAD to provide legal research regarding how gender bias and stereotyping link to GBV in the Pacific Island region. This has been part of ICAAD’s ongoing 6 year initiative on TrackGBV and a presentation/ report will be delivered at the EJA Commonwealth Asia High-level Dialogue in Malaysia later this year. 

Compacts of Free Association (COFA) 

On May 17, 2019, ICAAD Advisor Erin Thomas’ publication: Compacts of Free Association in FSM, RMI, and Palau: Implications for the 2023-2024 Renewal Negotiations was cited by the President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr., in an op-ed published in The Hill. In her piece, Erin points to critical issues stakeholders have raised regarding human trafficking, adoption policies, and COFA migrant rights among other important human rights issues. 

Some of the above-mentioned policy gaps span several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly 10 (reduced inequalities) and 17 (partnership for the goals). Holistically, the existing COFA agreements represent the type of inequity that SDG 10 seeks to address. SDG 17 promotes inclusive and participatory decision-making at the international, national, and local levels. Developing transparency on both sides will allow for a more equitable process and outcome for the renewal negotiations.

The issues within the existing agreements also involve SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) and limited access to justice regarding redress for nuclear testing and environmental destruction. This impacts targets and indicators including SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 3 (good health and well-being). Finally, SDG 10 and 8’s targets for responsible migration policies are important considering the limited provisions for COFA migrants in the U.S. and U.S. territories.

Thoughts on CSW 2019 

ICAAD Fellow, Megan Lee Candolfi, published a blog piece on her experience at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) earlier this year.

ICAAD is honored to have been invited by Sisters for Change, a UK based organization combating discriminatory laws against women and girls, to join the Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) Group of Experts.

As part of this collaboration, ICAAD will be attending an EJA meeting in Singapore from April 3-5th and also present our work on gender-based violence in the Pacific Island region at the EJA Commonwealth Asia High-level Dialogue in Malaysia in November of this year. The implementing partners of EJA are international NGOs including Kaleidoscope Trust, Human Dignity Trust, The Royal Commonwealth Society, and Sisters For Change.

 

What EJA Does?

"The Equality & Justice Alliance’s programme will provide support to countries that are seeking to address this systemic discrimination by working with a range of stakeholders to secure the rights of women and girls and LGBT people. The programme will:

  • Support Commonwealth civil society organisations to work intersectionally and conduct advocacy to engage with the legislative and policy process;

  • Convene a series of regional dialogues to build a better understanding of international standards and best practice, strengthen policy exchanges between civil society, officials and experts and to highlight the benefits of legal reform;

  • Provide a range of legal and policy research tools and technical legal assistance and expertise to Commonwealth governments seeking to reform discriminatory laws, combat violence against women and girls, eliminate hate crimes and increase access to justice."

Research in Niue

ICAAD Advisor, Erin Thomas, recently earned a grant to pursue research on gender-based violence in Niue. She will be working with the Ministry for Community Affairs to assess GBV prevalence rates in the unique small island state through a web-based survey. Erin began working on field research in Niue during an internship with ICAAD in 2017; read her pilot assessment here.

Erin has also been working on a policy brief breaking down human rights concerns in the Compacts of Free Association between the U.S. and Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia (stay tuned). After over 30 years, the agreements will be up for renewal in 2023-2024, and efforts have already begun to create more equitable outcomes.
Law Reform Commission of Samoa with the ICAAD Team
Law Reform Commission of Samoa with the ICAAD Team

Lawyers and local advocacy organisations will gain access to an important tool needed to identify gender bias within legal decisions made in Pacific Island Countries (PICs).

The International Centre for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) will be releasing a handbook detailing its methodology in examing sentencing patterns with a view to uncover Gender Based Violence (GBV) trends over a 20-year period.

This work is part of ICAAD’s TrackGBV initiative to promote a data-driven methodology within leading governmental and civil society organizations throughout the Pacific Island region by 2021.

The handbook is being released today, on Human Rights Day, and follows the completion of a successful pilot initiative – also part of TrackGBV – that led to legislative and judicial reform in PICs.

The Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Sentencing Handbook is produced in partnership with global law firm Clifford Chance. It is primarily aimed at assisting lawyers and local advocacy organizations to analyse case law, while putting a spotlight on societal and community-level factors that both contribute to GBV and shape judicial attitudes, particularly when it comes to sentencing and its impact on accountability.

Commenting on the Handbook, Sam Harris, Associate at Clifford Chance stated that “it is crucial that any analysis tackling such a pervasive and deep rooted issue as GBV has a considered and robust methodology.”

“We are confident that the Handbook provides a firm foundation for analysing GBV cases, as well as providing important context to the barriers in seeking redress for victims/survivors of GBV in PICs,” said Harris.

ICAAD Co-Founder, Hansdeep Singh said while he was glad to see progress being made, preventable barriers continued to persist.

“When women and girls make the difficult decision to report, the justice system should not minimize their courageous act by using stereotypes, customary practices, victim blaming, or issuing inadequate sentences that do not reflect the gravity of the crime. However, it is important to recognize that judiciaries in the region, especially in Fiji, have taken concrete measures to reducing bias and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the courts,” he said.

Prior to its official release, ICAAD introduced the Handbook to over 30 stakeholders in Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, including the Chief Justices of Tonga and Samoa and leading women’s rights organizations including Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Tonga Women & Childrens Crisis Centre, and Samoa Victim Support Group.

The Handbook’s release coincides with Human Rights Day and marks the culmination of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

C. Justice Paulsen of Tonga, Hansdeep, & Jaspreet
C. Justice Paulsen of Tonga, Hansdeep, & Jaspreet
Chief Justice Patu of Samoa with the ICAAD Team
Chief Justice Patu of Samoa with the ICAAD Team
ICAAD with Fiji Women
ICAAD with Fiji Women's Rights Movement

Attachments:

TrackGBV Update: Analysis of 5,000 GBV cases in 12 Pacific Island Countries (PICs) has begun.

  • Linklaters - is the lead law firm coordinating the analysis
  • Manatt Phelps - a team of lawyers from Manatt will be added in October 2018 following analysis of the initial pilot set and refinement of methodology
  • Conduent - working with our data science partner to seamlessly onboard partner law firms
  • Next step - identifying a tech partner to assist with building out effective data visualizations for all of the information being analyzed from the cases

Organisations speak out in defense of sexual assault survivors.

ICAAD joined with International women’s rights organisation Equality Now and 80 other leading women and human’s right groups to place a full page ad in the Washington Post expressing collective concern about attacks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford since her story of sexual assault was shared. SDG 5 makes it clearly imperative that Gender Equality is objectively better for all, and “there can never be equality in a culture that normalizes or trivializes sexual assault and sexual harassment.” We are proud to stand with all the signatories of the statement published on September 27, 2018 in @washingtonpost. #WhyIDidntReport

Global Transformation towards Gender Equality and Agenda 2030: A conversation about innovative approaches to break the cycle of violence against women

  • ICAAD was invited to present at the Global Transformation conference, which was hosted by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law (Sweden), American University Washington College of Law (USA), Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria (South Africa), and Red Latinoamericana de académico/as del Derecho, with support of the Swedish Embassy in Mexico City.
  • Jaspreet Singh, ICAAD Co-Founder, presented and chaired the panel on: Case Studies on SGBV: Research Methodologies and Perspectives from the Field.

The presentation was specifically on Analysis of Judicial Sentencing Practices in GBV Cases in the Pacific Island Region. It included a discussion of how cases were analyzed and the impact of advocacy resulting from the project, as well as the potential to replicate the methodology in other jurisdictions.

Check out the presentation here.

Hon. CM Ratuvili with the ICAAD Team
Hon. CM Ratuvili with the ICAAD Team

ICAAD has built credibility with the Fijian Judiciary over 5 years through rule of law trainings, publication of reports centered on judicial bias, and direct engagement with both the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Magistrate, and Chief Registrar of the Family Courts. ICAAD recently got confirmation from the Judiciary that 3 directives (authoritative instructions) ICAAD created have been disseminated to all Magistrate judges in the country. The directives will help improve access to justice for women facing violence:

  • Judges should not reduce a sentence in gender-based violence (GBV) cases based on the belief that the respondent is a first time offender if there is credible testimony, medical evidence, or police reporting that indicates past evidence of violence, even without a previous conviction.
  • Magistrates should not order both parties to attend joint counselling in GBV cases. There is a presumption against pushing for reconciliation in domestic violence civil proceedings and that reconciliation is not applicable in domestic violence criminal proceedings.
  • When a women seeks an Interim Domestic Violence Restraining Order, Magistrates should inform both parties separately that they should seek Legal Aid. Further, the Court should make clear that if one party obtains Legal Aid's services first, the other party is not barred from obtaining assistance because Legal Aid can refer conflicting cases out to law firms.

Thanks to Chief Justice Gates, Chief Magistrate Ratuvili, and Scot Fishman of Manatt for their support in this endeavor. 

PACIFIC ISLAND REGION: TrackGBV Update

TrackGBV is a program to provide data and analysis on GBV cases and increase transparency, consistency, and accountability of the justice systems in Pacific Island Countries. The legal database for TrackGBV has been completed by our tech and data science partner, Conduent. Besides creating a user-friendly database to conduct legal analysis, the Conduent and ICAAD team have been working to develop machine learning algorithms that can assist in making the analysis more efficient.

Furthermore, the analysis of 5000 GBV cases has begun thanks to pro bono partner law firm Linklaters. As we scale up the project, we anticipate bringing on 3-4 other major law firms from the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Also, with the upcoming publication of our Sentencing Handbook on GBV produced with the assistance of Clifford Chance (London), we will be positioned to disseminate the Handbook to judges and civil society advocates throughout the region and conduct further trainings.

 

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Organization Information

International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)

Location: Chappaqua, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ICAADglobal
Project Leader:
Hansdeep Singh
Co-Founder, Director of Legal Programmes
Chappaqua, NY United States
$36,721 raised of $50,000 goal
 
182 donations
$13,279 to go
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