Women's Rights Background

Ensuring full respect for women’s rights is essential to building the rule of law, yet achieving this objective is challenging in many of the countries in which the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) operates. In response to the barriers faced by women around the globe, in 1996 ABA ROLI initiated its women’s rights program. Aimed at promoting reforms that foster women’s empowerment and enhance their legal status, the program addresses three areas critical to achieving gender equality: enhancing women’s access to justice, promoting women in the legal profession and combating gender-based violence. ABA ROLI assists local stakeholders in their legislative drafting efforts and implements legal education, legal aid and advocacy programs to advance women’s rights. These targeted strategies are complemented by a gender-mainstreaming approach. ABA ROLI strives to ensure that gender perspectives constitute an integral component of its programs across all thematic areas. To measure progress on women’s rights, ABA ROLI has developed the CEDAW Assessment Tool based on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Enhancing women’s access to justice

The feminization of poverty, restrictions on a woman’s role in society and lack of awareness about civil rights are among the factors that limit women’s access to legal remedies. To improve women’s access to justice, ABA ROLI supports women’s legal advocacy centers, social advocates and traveling lawyer programs, which offer pro bono assistance when the services of local professional attorneys are unavailable or unaffordable.

Combating gender-based violence

Once viewed as a purely private matter, violence against women is now seen as an issue of state responsibility. Nevertheless, laws protecting women are often nonexistent or lax, which leads to the atmosphere of prevalent impunity. ABA ROLI works to improve governments’ responses to gender-based violence (GBV), including domestic violence and systematic rape used as a weapon of war, through legislative reform, advocacy campaigns and legal aid programs. In addition, we promote effective and vigorous prosecution of GBV cases by offering capacity-building training to the police, prosecutors, judges and lawyers.

Promoting women in the legal profession

In many countries, the legal profession is not considered appropriate for women. Consequently, many female lawyers experience difficulties in advancing their careers and in obtaining equal compensation. ABA ROLI vigorously promotes female lawyers’ professional development and works to harness their potential to advocate for women’s rights. Our activities include training programs and support for women’s bar associations.

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