Legal aid and paralegals to promote justice

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 04:31

Article and Photographs by Thant Zin

On 13 September, Meiktila Township observed the Myanmar Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day. The event was led by the General Administration Department and the Police Force and supported by ActionAid, our local partner Legal Clinic Myanmar (LCM) and various other organisations.

ActionAid and Legal Clinic Myanmar have collaborated with the Meiktila Police Force on tackling human trafficking with considerable success.

Police captain U MyoLwin of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Task Force expressed great pride in a particular case, when a human-trafficker were brought to justice due this partnership (Read the full story here: http://www.actionaid.org/2015/07/legal-aid-high-demand )

U MyoLwin said:“The human-trafficker had a good lawyer, so originally I feared he might get away. However since ActionAid and Legal Clinic Myanmar provided proper legal aid to the victim, the perpetrator got sentenced to 10 years under the anti-human trafficking law”.

File 31460Police Captain U Myo Lwin viewing the article he featured with May Thu Ne Win of ActionAid Myanmar

Under the ‘Access to Justice for Survivors of Vioelnce’ project funded by the UN Trust fund, ActionAid and Legal Clinic Myanmar have trained over 200 community volunteers –paralegals – across the Country. The training aims to enable the paralegals to raise awraness in their communities, and work together with community paralegal networks to tackle issues of sexual and gender based violence. Most of the paralegals in Meiktila have acted as such for over one and a half years. Prior to the trainings, paralegals had limited knowledge of their rights or the legal context. Even serious violence such as rape used to be left to the arbitration of the village leader, which mostly resulted in small monetary compensation, explained the paralegals.

DawHla Than of YwarThit Village said:“Without any legal knowledge, villagers could not pursue cases any further, even when they did not like the ruling of the village leader. But now, with our legal knowledge, we know how to go through proper channels and seek legal advice when the survivor does not find the village leader’s ruling satisfactory.”

The paralegals spoke proudly of their achievements in challenging different kinds of violence against women and girls. From domestic violence to rape, each of them shared their experiences in successfully tackling them by exercising the knowledge they acquired during the trainings, and through subsequent refresher trainings–according to them, they have earned the trust of their communities and have become go-to persons in cases of violence against women and girls.

Ma Yee Yee San of War Yone Su Village said:“It has been less than two years since ActionAid provided us this training, but we have already consulted and referred a lot of cases. Now things are so different compared to how they used to be.”