Past Events

EJA High-Level Commonwealth Pacific Islands Regional Dialogue

EJA High-Level Commonwealth Pacific Islands Regional Dialogue
This event brought together parliamentarians, leaders and officials from Commonwealth Pacific countries to discuss discriminatory law reform in the context of the Pacific. Participants included parliamentarians and lawmakers from national governments, as well as representatives from regional institutions and civil society organisations.

At the dialogue, youth delegates led the conversation on the importance of establishing spaces where young people can engage with members of parliament, aiming to bridge the gap between governments and young people. Those present agreed that in order to champion inclusion, the legislative process requires the participation of the youth from the beginning, as well as engaging with their families and communities. The discussion also emphasised the importance of moving beyond tokenism. While progress has been made in advancing women’s rights through legislation, political representation still lags with only 7.9% female MPs in parliaments across the region. Delegates then worked together to develop an action plan for greater collaboration between youth and parliamentarians to advance equality and inclusion in the Pacific. Parliamentarians from Tuvalu, Kirabati and Samoa made commitments to advance equality and inclusion.

Singapore Legal Expert Group Meetings — Singapore, April 2019

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.

EJA High-Level Caribbean Dialogue — Saint Lucia, April 2019

EJA Commonwealth Caribbean High-Level Dialogue
April, 2019
The High-Level Dialogue convened more than thirty parliamentary, government, civil society and youth champions from across the Commonwealth Caribbean to exchange knowledge of their work advancing equality across the region. Participants discussed in plenary and in national break-out groups the key opportunities and challenges in the Caribbean to advance equality before the law, and how this could be achieved. Regional experts presented case studies to the group on the following topics:

  • The reform of Belize's sexual offences legislation, presented by former Belize Minister and former Ambassador of Children, Gender and HIV/AIDS, Dolores Balderamos-García
  • The journey to safe, legal, accessible abortion in the Caribbean, presented by academic, poet and activist Taitu Heron
  • Engagement with youth to advance legislative reform, presented by Alicia Wallace, Director of Equality Bahamas

Civil Society Regional Movement Building – Caribbean, March 2019

Civil Society Multi-Country Convening
MARCH, 2019
The EJA will convene a national meeting of civil society LGBT and women’s rights organisations in Saint Lucia in March 2019. The event aims to provide a space for civil society activists and human rights defenders to come together to discuss and build consensus around intersectional discrimination and developing shared platforms for legal advocacy. Country-specific priorities, groups and actors will be central to discussions on challenges and opportunities to create legal reform of discriminatory laws in the Eastern Caribbean.

Civil Society National Country Convening — Namibia, February 2019

Civil Society National Country Convening
The EJA brought together civil society organisations and activists in Windhoek, Namibia on 13-15 February to discuss intersections between women and girls' rights and LGBT rights. The vibrant and diverse representations of organisations, from women's rights organisations to those working with sex workers and trans women, was instrumental in creating rich discussions on the importance of intersectionality – both to ensure recognition for the rights of diverse people, as well as to build a movement where a common agenda can be built. Leaders from the women's rights movements shared their personal and political journeys and how solidarity within the women's movement – working together and collective advocacy – was the driving force behind the rights won for women, for example the 50/50 campaign in Namibia in the post-Freedom era.

We're excited that Namibian organisations recognise the strength of intersectional movements and we're looking forward to hearing about their second-round discussions where they will draw up their advocacy plans.

EJA Forum for Commonwealth Parliamentarians, Cape Town, February 2019

EJA Forum for Commonwealth Parliamentarians
The EJA Forum brought together more than 30 parliamentary, government, civil society and youth champions from all four regions of the Commonwealth to engage in peer learning around the reform of discriminatory laws. Utilising case studies of reforms that have been undertaken in the Commonwealth, delegates learned more about reform processes and how these might be applicable in their own countries. We were honoured to be joined by high-level guests including the former presidents of Mozambique and Botswana, Their Excellencies Festus Mogae and Joaquim Chissano.

Highlights included:

  • A pre-Forum youth strategy day brought together six young leaders from across the Commonwealth to strategise youth action for change
  • An opening speech set the context for working in the Commonwealth by former Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General, Dr. Josephine Ojiambo
  • Legislative reform case study presentations by regional experts from all four Commonwealth regions, which included: reform of the Mozambique Penal Code; Belize sexual offences reform; the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act; Pakistan's Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act
  • A tour for delegates of the Parliament of South Africa, provided by the South African Government
  • A closing speech by HE Joaquim Chissano, Former President of Mozambique

Activity 5 – South African Regional Civil Society Movement Building

Civil Society Regional Movement Building
December, 2018
The EJA gathered civil society organisations and activists from Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mauritius and South Africa at a Regional Capacity Building Workshop in Johannesburg in December 2018. The Regional Capacity Building Workshop aimed to increase Women’s Rights and LGBT civil society organisations engagement in legislative and policy reform. Discussions sought to identify and strengthen synergies between women’s rights and LGBT+ movements in Africa, to agree common advocacy priorities and strategies for legal and policy reform, and to build sustainable movements based on the experiences and efforts of the various of national and regional organisations present. National advocacy plans were created to focus on legal reform of discriminatory laws, equal protection for all and state accountability.

Activity 4 – Botswana Civil Society Convening

Civil Society National Country Convening
November, 2018
The EJA convened a national meeting of civil society LGBT and women’s rights organisations in Botswana in November 2018. The event provided a space for diverse civil society organisations to come together to deliberate, discuss and build consensus around intersectional discrimination and how to develop shared platforms for advocacy and legal reform to enhance equality and protection for all. The specific country context of Botswana and the challenges posed by strong patriarchal structures, conservative cultural gender norms and limited civil society space were also considered in discussions that focused on how to achieve inclusive national movement building and civil society organisational sustainability.

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Activity 3 – Commonwealth Africa Regional Dialogue in Johannesburg

EJA Commonwealth Africa High-level Regional Dialogue
November, 2018
Strengthening Equality and Equal Protection of the Law – Reforming laws that discriminate

The EJA High-level Dialogue brought together 25 senior officials, legislative experts, lawmakers and political champions in legislative reform from across Commonwealth Africa to share experiences of reforming discriminatory laws and policies to advance equality and challenge structural and systemic discrimination. The opening address was given by the Deputy Minister of Justice of South Africa, Honourable John Jeffery and the keynote speech by Independent Expert Member of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Professor Michelo Hansungule.

The event provided an opportunity for pan-Commonwealth knowledge exchange and discussion, and the following EJA-commissioned Legal Reform Case Studies were presented:
  • Reform of the Mozambique Penal Code in 2014, by Gender Links Advisor Kubi Rama
  • Reform of the Indian Penal Code and laws related to sexual offences by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2014 by Indian Supreme Court Advocate Vrinda Grover
  • Incorporating public participation into the law-making process in Namibia, by Namibian Ministry of Justice Secretary to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, Anél van der Vyver

Activity 2 – Mauritius Civil Society Convening

Civil Society National Country Convening
November, 2018
The EJA convened a national meeting of civil society LGBT and women’s rights organisations in Mauritius in November 2018. The event provided a space for diverse civil society organisations to come together to deliberate, discuss and build consensus around intersectional discrimination and how to use a common understanding of discrimination and lack of quality to build shared platforms for advocacy and legal reform. The convening was also an opportunity to discuss different organisational and personal experiences and strategies for local advocacy on legislative reform and to identify data and research gaps that can help build evidence and the case for reform at the national level.

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Activity 1 – Primary Round Tables

London Roundtables & Dialogues
July - August, 2018
The EJA held three seminal roundtables in London between July and August 2018. We brought together over 40 officials, MPs, lawyers, academics and civil society leaders, representing 20 Commonwealth countries, to take part in in-depth discussions on current developments and legal reform initiatives across the Commonwealth, barriers and opportunities for legal reform, and the current priorities of women’s rights and LGBT rights organisations across the Commonwealth.

1. Legal Experts Roundtable – July 2018

The EJA brought together a group of legal experts, practitioners, academics and lawyers in July 2018 to assess developments and current failings in legislative protections for specific forms of violence (including domestic violence, rape, child marriage, criminalisation of same sex relationships, hate crime and new emerging forms of violence). The dialogue took a deep dive into three legislative areas: (i) anti-discrimination legislation; (ii) sexual offences legislation; (iii) religious and family laws. Presentations given by invited experts included those from Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Chair, Kagwiria Mbogori, CEDAW Committee member (Bahamas), Marion Bethel and International Commission of Jurists Senior Legal Advisor, Livio Zilli.

2. Government & Parliamentary Champions Roundtable – August 2018

This event brought together Members of Parliament (current and former), heads of Government Institutions and Government lawmakers to discuss the legal reform process and priority areas for reform related to women and girls and LGBT individuals. It also included discussions around key actors and obstacles to reform and strategies for engaging with faith leaders, parliamentary caucuses and regional inter-governmental organisations and bodies. Specific to this dialogue was a plenary discussion on how to build a network and coalition of Champions to work to catalyse change at the national level.

3. Civil Society Roundtable – August 2018

This EJA Roundtable event brought together women’s rights and LGBT activists and leaders to discuss good practice for engaging governments and national institutions, regional blocs and international human rights mechanisms to push for legislative reform. There were sessions on experiences and challenges to ensure inclusive movement building, requirements for legal capacity building, and strategies and methods to empower and engage youth activists. Presentations to catalyse discussion and reflection were given by, Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Executive Director, Kenita Placide and Gender Links Chief Executive Officer, Colleen Lowe Morna.