Access to the law for all

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 The Sudanese Organization for Research and Development's legal clinics connected Najwa (right) with lawyer Zeinab (left) to support her through her separation from her husband.Credit: SORD

“Access to justice is the legal expression of equality, if not citizenship.”

For many people, legal questions only arise when there is a problem, and the only solution is recourse to the justice system. Shouldn’t access to justice go beyond conflict resolution and demonstrate equality, as expressed above by Pierre Noreau, professor in the Faculty of Law at the Université de Montréal?

Inter Pares and our counterparts believe that the answer is yes. One of the ways that we promote social justice is by facilitating access to the formal justice system.

It is important that the law and the various ways of accessing this system be widely understood so that everyone has a sense of equality before the law and dares to demand justice. The Sudanese Organization for Research and Development (SORD), our counterpart in Sudan, has a large gender justice program that facilitates access to justice for women and aims to reform discriminatory laws and policies, for example those that allow child marriage or conflate adultery and rape. Through its legal clinics, SORD supports women to understand their rights under the law and to access justice. For example, for the last several years, SORD has accompanied Najwa, a young woman who is involved in a lengthy divorce process in the context of spousal violence.

Access to justice for victims of gender-based or sexual violence remains difficult everywhere, whether in Sudan or Canada or El Salvador. In El Salvador, our counterpart La Colectiva Feminista also relies on lawyers to assist women who are experiencing violence and raises awareness among justice officials about the barriers including cultural prejudices that exist in the system.

For Inter Pares and our counterparts, the formal justice system is a tool to access equality. Supporting people seeking justice to know their rights and to find their way through the day-to-day legal system is key to increasing access to justice. The road to full access remains long.

Supporting people seeking justice to know their rights and to find their way through the day-to-day legal system is key to increasing access to justice.

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