Access to Justice
Legal change concerning women’s rights must be supported at all levels in order to achieve a real impact. Thus, KVINFO supports reform through a multitude of activities, including campaigns, study trips, and as a more tangible step, the establishment of a legal aid centre. The experience gained is shared on a continual basis between a wide range of partners from the Middle East and Denmark and other organizations in the region.
Legal reforms are an important step towards the assurance of women’s rights and equality. However, they do not necessarily change the social practices, unless the implementation of the reforms in practical is supported at all levels. The implementation of reform in practice is a common challenge faced by both Denmark and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
NGO's work in favour of women's rights
The call for legal changes varies significantly, both between governments and within civil society in the Middle East and North Africa. However, a common denominator is the large and vibrant community of non-governmental organisations working for the achievement of women’s rights, particularly through change of the personal status code. A number of NGOs have established regional networks – some ad hoc, some on a more permanent basis. To some extent, the struggle for equality before the law is the common denominator for the majority of women’s organisations in the region.
A concrete example of a call for legal change regards the demand for lifting of the reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
A total of 17 Arab States out of 22 members of the Arab League have signed and/or ratified the CEDAW
But the integration into the national legal systems has yet to be seen in most places – something which also applies for Denmark. The ratification of CEDAW in itself does not ensure the end of all discrimination against women. The instrument will only be effective if an enabling environment already exists at national and local levels with appropriate laws, judiciary and policies. Nonetheless, CEDAW has proven itself to be important for the women’s movement internationally, including in the Middle East, functionning as a framework to strengthen and legitimize awareness raising and advocacy campaigns on women’s rights.
KVINFO supports the campaign ‘Equality without Reservation’, which is headed by a regional network of women’s and human rights organisations from a number of Arab countries. Since 2006 they have been engaged in the presently ongoing campaign.
Supporting legal change and reform in practice
The key focus area 'Legal Change' encompasses activities that support reforms in practice. One example is the Danish-Moroccan cooperation project ‘Strengthening Women’s Rights and the Access to Justice in the Moroccan Legal System.’ The project supports the full implementation of the family code that has improved women's rights in terms of for instance inheritance and divorce. An additional aim is to share the Moroccan experience with partners from other Arab countries.
The Moudawana, which is the name of the law, has drawn a great deal of attention from other countries in the region, since it is a current example on how to improve women's rights through legal reforms. The project demonstrates the importance of working on the practical aspects of reform, for example by offering information to the citizens about their rights, and by providing free legal aid as one very important activity.
The support shown towards the ‘Equality without Reserves’ network demonstrates other methods used in supporting legal change, namely campaigning among decision makers.