We promote gender equality by challenging discriminatory practices against women and by encouraging female lawyers, experts, and advocates to become leaders in the criminal justice sector.
All too often, women and men are held to different standards of behavior. Authorities use the law to enforce rigid social norms and punish women who do not conform or challenge patriarchal control.
In Afghanistan, for example, sex outside marriage carries a three-year jail sentence. If applied equally to men and women, one would expect a pretty even gender balance in convictions. Yet women are disproportionately arrested on these charges -- including in cases when they are survivors of sexual violence and assault.
Once in police custody, women frequently face further abuse. In many countries, this includes so-called “virginity tests” -- visual and physical hymen inspections, which have no scientific basis or credible evidentiary value. In Afghanistan, the ILF is challenging the admissibility of “virginity tests” in court. We are training lawyers and officials to recognize these abusive practices as baseless and traumatizing. We are engaging the Afghanistan Forensic Science Organization and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, while working with civil society groups, to change professional standards and public attitudes.
At every turn, we work to get women the services they need when in contact with the law. We coordinate with special courts for violence against women, domestic violence shelters, women’s networks, community groups, doctors, and counselors to link clients and their families with holistic support.
Women in Leadership and Law
In all of our country programs, we seek to expand the number of women working and leading in the criminal justice system through our Women in Leadership and Law (WiLL) program. Through educational workshops, community outreach, and mentorship, WiLL empowers and supports female criminal defense lawyers and promotes gender equality.
In the West Bank for example, we have provided training for more than 150 women in criminal defense representation. Currently, half of ILF’s lawyers globally are women, and women head several of our offices. We have also had several of our trainees go on to become judges, department heads, and other justice sector leaders.