Singapore Legal Expert Group Meetings
APRIL, 2019
In April 2019, Human Dignity Trust (HDT) and Sisters For Change (SFC), on behalf of the EJA, brought together senior legal and policy experts from across the Commonwealth in Singapore to share expertise, technical knowledge and personal experiences of reforming constitutional, criminal and civil laws that discriminate against women and girls and LGBT people and drafting laws to strengthen the equality of women and girls and LGBT people under the law.

Human Dignity Trust Legal Expert Group Meeting

HDT, on behalf of the EJA, convened a meeting of seven experts across law, politics and academia, bringing a wealth of expertise in researching, reforming and implementing sexual offences and hate crimes legislation, to ensure women and girls and LGBT people do not suffer discrimination under the law. The purpose of the convening was to consolidate and expand the Group of Experts, continue to leverage expert knowledge to support countries receiving technical assistance, and to share findings and lessons learned across EJA activities.

Sessions were peer led by the Group of Experts and followed by a group discussion on the topic at hand. Expert-led sessions were held on the following topics:

  • Lessons from Belize’s Reform Journey: From Sexual Offences Law Reform to Hate Crimes Legislation, led by Kim Simplis Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children and Spouse of the Prime Minister of Belize;
  • The Reform of Sexual Offences Laws in Palau: Lessons Learned, led by John Bradley, former Attorney General of Palau
  • SOGI-based Hate Crimes in the Commonwealth: Contextual Analysis, led by Eric Gitari, LGBT Human Rights Expert and author of an EJA report on this subject
  • Legislating to Protect against SOGI-based Hate Crimes: An Analysis of Options and Good Practice, led by Dr. Kay Goodall, Hate Crimes Legislation Expert who, with Dr. Mark Walters, drafted an EJA report on this subject
  • Report on Good Practice in Human Rights Compliant Sexual Offences Laws in the Commonwealth, led by Indira Rosenthal, Adviser and Consultant on Gender, Law and Justice, one of the authors of an EJA report on this subject
The group also attended a learning exchange with the Singaporean Minister of Law and Home Affairs and his staff, who explained the reforms being made to the Singaporean Penal Code, including strengthening rape provisions beyond the male perpetrator/female victim binary and repealing the marital rape exemption.

Sisters For Change Legal Expert Group Meeting

SFC, on behalf of the EJA, brought together nine independent legal experts from a range of legal disciplines, including supreme court judges and advocates, UN CEDAW committee members, legal practitioners and academics and legislative counsel from across the Commonwealth. The Meeting included expert-led technical presentations on constitutional and criminal law reform, anti-discrimination and equality law, and key developments in reform of personal laws and sexual offences legislation designed to inform the ongoing comparative legal research SFC has commissioned as part of the EJA programme and to support the three technical assistance programmes SFC is delivering in Namibia, Saint Lucia and Samoa.

The Meeting comprised a range of technical presentations and discussions which included:

  • A technical analysis of the constitutional reform process in Kenya 2010 by Chaloka Beyani, Professor of Law at the London School of Economics (LSE) and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons
  • A presentation of the interim findings of a comparative legal review of anti-discrimination and equality legislation across the Commonwealth by Aileen McColgan, Professor of Law at the University of Leeds and Barrister at 11KBW, London
  • A comparative review of marital rape legislation across the Commonwealth by Marion Bethel, Attorney and CEDAW Committee Member, The Bahamas with a response from Florida Kabasinga, Managing Partner at Certa Law Chambers, Kigali, Rwanda
  • A detailed analysis of legislative reform of personal laws relating to marriage and family relations by Aruna Narain, Supreme Court Judge, Mauritius and CEDAW Committee Member
  • A comparative analysis of models of harassment laws across the Commonwealth by Dianne Hubbard, Director of the Gender Research & Advocacy Project at the Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia
  • A technical analysis of criminal law reform in India in 2013/14 by Vrinda Grover, Supreme Court Advocate, New Delhi, India
  • A presentation on gender-based violence in the Pacific Island Region by Hansdeep Singh, Co-founder of the International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination, USA
  • A technical discussion on the complexity of legislative drafting in plural legal systems led by Sharon Murdock, Legislative Drafter at the Office of Legislative Counsel, Northern Ireland and Member of the Commonwealth Association of Legal Counsel
The Expert Meeting consolidated the advisory and technical role of the Group of Experts and provided the opportunity to discuss the structure and work plan for future Expert Meetings in 2019/2020.