The stories in this post describe some of the justice problems women’s face; Violence against women, forced marriages, exploitation. I wished they were extraordinary but they are mundane.
Justice systems around the world fail to do what they are supposed to do: provide justice. Therefore, it becomes even harder for advocates, local and international, to make an impact on access to justice for women.
Women are disproportionately affected by justice systems that don’t address two thirds of peoples problems. This has a high impact on women’s lives; violence, loss of income, stress and relationships suffer. Constitutions and laws that promote justice for women aren’t securing real solutions or prevention. In practice, why is it that women’s rights are not protected, promoted, and violations prevented? We urgently need to invest in justice systems, create new services and succeed in securing fair solutions for everybody with a genuine need.
To achieve this, data about the injustices of women is badly needed. Women’s voices need to be heard about their experiences finding a solution to their problem. Then this knowledge can guide us to the transformation that is needed: one that answers the problems that occur time and time again.
At HiiL, we go straight to the people in various countries to measure their justice needs and satisfaction (JNS) and learn about their legal needs. The justice data reports (Justice Needs and Satisfaction reports) highlight to the stakeholders and actors of justice systems – from police to ministers – where the pain spots are. What we learn is hard to digest. Read these stories for yourself.
RIGHT TO HAVE A DAY IN COURT
(Name withheld), 17 years – Morocco
“After I filed for a divorce, my husband started sending me threatening messages. He even told me he’d take my daughter and go to Egypt. I never took him seriously, I thought he was just trying to scare me into changing my mind about the divorce and pension request for our daughter. I went out one day to buy some groceries and when I returned my daughter was gone. Her father took the opportunity of my absence and took her. The police informed me that my husband has this right – he legally did not abduct her. I tried calling him and my mother in law several times but they both refuse to answer. A lawyer then advised me to file a complaint denouncing the non-receipt of my pension as his wife. The court would then summon him and he’d be forced to return to Morocco. My case is still on hold. While I wait to hear back I cannot sleep at night.”
CHILD MARRIAGE AVOIDED, BUT CHILD UNPROTECTED
“My father decided to get me married when my age was not more than 12. As I was not willing to get married, my father made me leave my house in an evening after humiliation. With the advice of my uncles I went to Upazila Chief Officer with an application to solve this issue. He called my father but my father refused to talk. I moved into my grandma’s place at Mohanpur Upazila. My father stopped taking care of every responsibilities and paying my maintenance cost. After listening to this issue, the magistrate called me and my father to his room for solving this through mediation. They forced my father to bear my expenses. My father managed to skip this resolution somehow. My father owns lands and he is financially solvent but he kept lying to the court about the property he owns. The court might follow up the truth with a further warrant. My father also threatened the BRAC HRLS [legal aid service] officers many times. My father even used to make phone calls and threatened me for this issue. He has been denying to pay any kind of amount to me saying, « I will go to jail but I will not pay any amount. »
WAITING, WAITING FOR A CHANCE AT JUSTICE FOR HER RAPE
Rima – Lebanon
Rima is 27 years old and resides in the capital, Beirut. She is married, has a university degree and works as a secretary. Her story goes back almost three years, when she was working as a secretary in a travel agency.
“The owner asked me to stay for a paid overtime, but I did not understand his intentions. After [his] serious insistence, I agreed to stay overtime. Three days past by and nothing suspicious or unusual happened. On the fourth day, the owner asked me to copy a number of papers on the photocopy machine. While undertaking the task, he grabbed me, threw me on the floor and attempted to rape me. That time, I ran away and left the job. After the incident, I filed a lawsuit before the Public Prosecution in Beirut against him. The file was referred to the Investigation Judge and remains pending there until the present date.”
FIGHTING FOR ACCESS, FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL
Hind – Syrian refugee in Jordan
Hind is a 37-year-old Syrian refugee woman, married with a daughter.
Hind was very concerned because her daughter didn’t have a birth certificate. “When our daughter was four months old, we took her to get her vaccinated, but the authorities told us that they cannot give her any vaccinations because she doesn’t have a birth certificate.” Hind explained that this was also the case for any public service relevant to her daughter’s well-being: “Do you think it’s logical that not having a piece of paper could impact a new-born’s life?” Eventually a lawyer assisted Hind’s daughter in getting a birth certificate issued. Hind found the process very difficult and stressful. “This is not our country, and we lack awareness with the laws and regulations here. Some things are very different than what we were used to back in Syria”
NEVER WILL BE EDUCATED
(Name withheld) – Nigeria
“I wanted to go to school and become a nurse or doctor so much, but my father refused. I told him that I wanted to follow my friend to school, but he said that there was no money to send me to school, and that I am a woman. You know that in my place, women are not really sent to school, they would tell you to go and get married especially if your family is poor. Which was why I married, started giving birth and did not go to school again. But I have made up my mind that my children must go to school. I am just praying to God to help me with money and save us from all these challenges. I did not go to school, that is my greatest regret.”
These stories are the voices of ordinary women we interviewed. Their fundamental rights; right to education, right to health care, right to due process amongst others, have been trampled on.
We at HiiL truly believe basic justice care for everyone is possible. With data and technology, we co-create high quality justice based on what is needed now. The voices of women have to be firmly part of the foundation for innovation. Technology platforms can assist mothers registering a child birth from a remote location on a mobile phone. Legal platforms can give free legal advice and educate women on their rights, but also create accountability mechanisms against exploitation, or even protect their sources of income.
If you go to our justice dashboard, you can see our conversations with women turned into visualised data on an interactive data platform. Data from 13 countries are online this minute, and you can compare experiences of justice between men and women, between rural and urban areas, education level, and even more. It’s user-friendly, so go there now and tell us what conclusions you find.