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TrustLaw Connect - Women's Rights

Updated: Tue, 12 Mar 2013

STORY OF IMPACT: Trafficking and Prostitution Laws in the Middle East and AfricaBack to top

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"Women who are subjected to sex trafficking are some of the most vulnerable in the world. They are not protected by laws, by policies, they are not given the services that they deserve and need," said Yasmeen Hassan, Global Director of Equality Now, a global human rights organisation dedicated to action for the civil, political, economic and social rights of girls and women.

Equality Now came to TrustLaw Connect seeking assistance in mapping national legislation in specific regions that addresses the demand for commercial sex (prostitution) and sex trafficking. Such research will enable Equality Now to strategically target countries to advocate for legal reform towards the elimination of sex trafficking.

"Once we have this research, we will have a better understanding of the legal framework in these countries, what is there, what needs to be changed, what needs to be better implemented, and start talking about how laws and policies impact what actually happens to women on the ground."

Thomson Reuters Foundation partnered with Latham & Watkins and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to produce a landscape analysis of human trafficking and prostitution laws in selected countries in Africa and the Middle East (Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.) This researchcan also be used to help regional grassroots organizations understand existing laws and create a strategy for policy and legal reform.

Equality Now, Latham & Watkins, and RBS won the 2012 TrustLaw Impact Award for this groundbreaking project. 

STORY OF IMPACT: Achieving Justice for Victims of Rape and Advancing Women's Rights in HaitiBack to top

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The aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 saw a dramatic increase in sexual violence, putting women and girls at especially high risk due to the lack of basic infrastructure in the camps and beyond, including limited lighting, security, sanitation facilities and safe housing. The realities on the ground also gave fresh impetus to long-standing calls for rape law reform.

To prepare for the October 2011 meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on Haiti, international women's rights organisation MADRE requested comparative research through TrustLaw on rape legislation. The research was used to highlight best practices in other countries and support the subsequent reform of rape legislation in Haiti, with a view to ultimately providing better support to rape survivors and increasing the likelihood of prosecutions.

Morrison & Foerster led and coordinated the research, working with DLA Piper, Latham & Watkins and Reed Smith to review rape legislation and procedures in Brazil, Canada, France, South Africa, Sweden and the United States and supply concrete examples of laws and policies that implement women's human rights. It includes models for statutes, protocols for victim services, and guides to police and prosecutorial procedures which respect the experiences of victims and advance gender justice.

In 2011, the Thomson Reuters Foundation hosted a first-of-its-kind forum of Haitian government official, police, lawyers, prosecutors, doctors and women's groups in Port-au-Prince, alongside MADRE and their local partner KOFAVIV. The goal was to find practical ways to ensure better protection, care and justice for Haitian women and girls.

Aside from the Haitian context, the research undertaken should be equally useful for the development of gender-based violence laws all over the world. The report forms part of Thomson Reuters Foundation's Haiti in Focus programme, bringing together free legal, humanitarian and media programmes to provide support for Haiti's recovery.


STORY OF IMPACT: Compensation for Rape Victims and Rape Laws in ChinaBack to top

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Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center works to promote gender equality in China through legal aid and counseling for disadvantaged women. They often work with rape victims to help them understand their legal rights and guide them through the criminal justice system. Although rape is one of the most common forms of crime targeted at women in China, rape victims are not currently entitled to compensation under the law for any mental suffering resulting from the rape.

“Psychological damage compensation for the rape victims and underage sex issues are nationwide social problems related to violence against women. It belongs to the jurisdiction of criminal law and must be regulated through legislation on a national level. We firmly believe that there is enough space for revision in the Criminal law in terms of underage sex crime.” – Guo Jianmei, Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center

The Center approached TrustLaw Connect for assistance in conducting a comparative study on laws and regulations in various countries with regards to psychological damage compensation for rape victims and underage prostitutes. The Center will use the findings to draft and propose new legislation on psychological damage compensation for rape victims, which they aim to present to the National People’s Congress to facilitate reform efforts and improve the legislation.

Vinson & Elkins LLP led the project looking at laws and regulations in China, Taiwan, US, Canada, UK, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. Seven other firms provided jurisdiction-specific contributions to the project. A cross-office team of Vinson & Elkins lawyers from Austin, Beijing, Dallas, Hong Kong, Houston, London, New York and Shanghai was led by associates Emily Barlass and Claire Chapman in Hong Kong and supervised by Hong Kong managing partner David Lang.

STORY OF IMPACT: Domestic Workers Rights and ILO Convention 189Back to top

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The International Labour Organisation estimates that up to 100 million people work in domestic households. A whopping 83 percent of these are women or girls. Many are migrant workers, working under appalling conditions with limited freedom and no legal rights or protection.

In 2011, the International Labour Organisation adopted Convention 189 titled “Decent Work for Domestic Workers,” which requires countries to take steps to improve working conditions for domestic workers. To date, the Convention has only been ratified by three countries (Uruguay, Philippines and Mauritius) and it is crucial that more countries ratify the Convention and strengthen the legal protections for domestic workers.

The Philippines is one of the world’s major sources of domestic workers. Visayan Forum, a Philippine NGO that fights modern-day slavery, asked TrustLaw Connect for assistance in looking at existing laws and identifying where new laws will be required to provide domestic workers with the rights and protections embodied in the Convention.

TrustLaw partnered with White & Case to conduct research on laws in England, France, Italy, Turkey, Singapore, Indonesia, South Africa and Chile. The aim of this research is to encourage more countries to ratify the Convention and actively consider next steps for its implementation. The research will be used to help Visayan and to encourage more countries to ratify the Convention and actively consider next steps for its implementation. 

In January 2013, the Philippines passed landmark legislation to protect domestic workers after ratifying the Convention. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, head of Visayan Forum, credited TrustLaw Connect with helping to make the law a reality: "when we were lobbying for the law, we asked TrustLaw Connect to conduct some research and studies to look at other countries and the practices and gaps vis-à-vis the existing ILO conventions,” she said. “TrustLaw Connect gave a wealth of knowledge. The research they gave us was one of the pillars we used in negotiating with legislators.” 

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