Gender-based discrimination exists in every corner of the world and the criminal justice system is no exception to this harsh reality. According to UNODC, “[t]he percentage of women in prison is growing globally and at a faster rate than the male prison population.” This is in part due to laws and policies that aim to control women’s bodies and behavior, the discriminatory application of laws and policies based on gender, as well as a lack of representation in leadership within criminal justice systems.
At the ILF, we seek to ensure that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or other identity, are afforded equal access to justice and protection under the law. This cannot happen without the elimination of gender-based discrimination. That means ensuring that every woman and girl has access to quality legal representation to help her exercise her rights. It also means ensuring that women have the tools and support they need to excel as leaders and fierce advocates within the justice system. In partnership with the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, the ILF has been working in Tunisia to enhance protections for women, girls, and other vulnerable people in conflict with the law through quality, holistic legal aid services in Kasserine, Kairouan, and Tunis. A key part of this effort has also been providing ILF lawyers in Tunisia, eight out of nine of whom are women, with the training and tools they need to meet the specific needs of women and girls in conflict with the law.
In 2021, through the implementation of the ILF’s International Fellows Program, the ILF’s Tunisia team received intensive training and mentorship to develop stronger legal arguments and creative strategies. By leveraging international best practices, the ILF's lawyers in Tunisia were better able to secure pretrial release and provide trauma-informed lawyering and client-centered representation. Additionally, the ILF's Tunisia team has been focusing on building leadership skills and relationships with justice sector stakeholders. These practices improve access to justice for women and girls and ensure the sustainability of the ILF’s operations in Tunisia. Through collective action, the team has strengthened relationships with justice sector stakeholders across the country which has allowed the ILF to expand its services to reach even more vulnerable people in need of legal aid. Through this training and capacity building, our Tunisian lawyers have deepened their expertise and grown in their ability to be effective advocates for women and girls.
Since 2021, in partnership with the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, we have represented more than 120 vulnerable people, 39 of them women and girls, who otherwise would likely have been forced to face the criminal justice system alone.
Our programs all around the world work to represent women and girls in a meaningful way. Having a fierce advocate on their side empowers women and girls to advocate for their own needs and build the lives they wish to live. Quality representation is critical in the fight against gender discrimination, and the ILF is working to expand our reach to ensure equal access to justice for all in Tunisia.