On June 8 and 9, a milestone event in the human rights sphere of Ukraine took place in Kyiv, the First All-Ukrainian Forum of Women Lawyers “Women in the Legal Profession: Achievements, Challenges and Impact on the Quality of Legal Protection”, organized by “JurFem”, the Association of Women Lawyers, with the expert and financial support to the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project.
In the course of two days, about two hundred female lawyers, including female judges, attorneys, human rights activists, specialists in the system of free legal aid, law enforcement officials, scholars, experts from civil and public sectors from different regions of Ukraine discussed issues of women’s access to justice in Ukraine and how to best combine efforts of the legal and human rights community for qualitative changes in the field of legal protection and protection of women’s rights.
The participants of the Forum analyzed the current state and developed recommendations, expected to be generalized by the Forum’s organizers, presented and directed to relevant specialized institutions.
Five expert lawyers from Canada also participated in the Forum:
Kerry A. Frock – lawyer from the Canadian Bar Association and the Women’s Foundation for Legal Awareness and Actions, Professor of Law at the University of New Brunswick;
Stephanie Lutsiuk, Professor of Law at the University of Moult Royal, former lawyer at Shell;
Karen Dick, lawyer, Executive Director of the Manitoba Law Foundation, Founder and Executive Director of the Winnipeg Legal Aid Center, former Chairman of the Equality Committee at the Canadian Bar Association and the Female Lawyers Forum of the Law Society of Manitoba;
Susan Amrad, Barrister, Chairman of the Labor Relations Council of Saskatchewan, former Deputy Minister of Justice of the Province of Saskatchewan, Human Rights Advisor to the Government of the Province of Saskatchewan;
Paulin Rankin, Doctor, advisor on gender equity, Associate Vice-President of the Carleton University in Ottawa, adviser to the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project on gender issues.
They shared their professional experience, as well as discussed the practice of law enforcement in the field of women’s rights protection, combating discrimination, gender-based and other forms of violence against women, as well as the development of policies in various spheres of public life, in particular, using the example of Canada’s experience, with the Ukrainian colleagues. After all, today, the issue of gender justice, the rights of women and girls are at the heart of policy in any field in Canada.
The Forum was conducted in the form of panel discussions and working groups. Panel discussions concerned the right to equal treatment or challenges faced by women in the legal profession. They also covered access to justice for vulnerable groups of women. Four working groups considered:
- Sexual harassment: international experience, efficiency of the Ukrainian legislation, the readiness of victims to talk about it and seek help.
- Different forms of discrimination: impingement, indirect discrimination, challenges and ways of overcoming them.
- Gender-based violence: does Ukrainian legislation sufficiently protect victims of this form of violence? Why ratify the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence).
- Multi-discrimination of particularly vulnerable groups of women (internally displaced people, women living in rural areas, HIV positive women, women with alcohol and drug addiction, representatives of national minorities, elderly women, etc.).
Each of these groups spoke separately about how solving these issues can help consolidate the efforts of the legal community: which barriers, as well as best practices in overcoming them already exist, what needs to be developed and strengthened in this connection. There were a number of interesting practices, experience, professional and personal, reflections and thoughts in relation to what was said.
Moreover, a number of master classes from women expert lawyers was conducted for the participants of the Forum, namely: “Human Rights and Gender Mainstreaming in Criminal Law: Ukrainian steps towards the Istanbul Convention”, ”Efficient protection against prosecution of law enforcement agencies and the prosecutor’s office in the provision of free secondary legal aid or under a contract to a client (criminal cases)”, ”Rights of the child: counteracting cruel treatment”, ”Discrimination on the basis of gender in advertising: how to detect and counteract”, ”Legal regulation of auxiliary reproductive technologies: risks for women”.
The Forum was held with the support of the Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Project, funded by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, implemented by the Canadian Bureau for International Education in partnership with the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision. Supporting the system of free legal aid in Ukraine, our Project pays great attention to the issues of gender equity, equal opportunities, observance and protection of the rights of women and girls. It is women who are mainly clients of the system of free legal aid in civil and administrative cases. Among them, there are many socially unprotected women and representatives of vulnerable groups. Women also make up the majority of staff in the system. The Project supports the organization of trainings and other activities for developing the capacity of the system’s personnel, where female experts of all its levels, who also partook in this forum, actively participate. We sincerely welcome the initiative of the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision to introduce the Gender Strategy of the LA system. Currently, the Project is helping Ukrainian partners to develop it.
We sincerely congratulate the organizers of the Forum and its participants on its success! Congratulations to the legal protection community of Ukraine in their desire to combine efforts to protect women’s rights, improve women’s access to justice in Ukraine, and ensure gender equality and justice.