11 October, 2016
Introducing: Rights of Women
Jasbindar Bhatoa, Senior Legal Officer, Rights of Women
Rights of Women is a women’s charity that helps women through the law. We specialise in providing advice and support for women who have been impacted by gender based violence. Our services are open to all women including pregnant women and new mothers and professionals supporting vulnerable women such as midwives.
Legal advice line
We provide legal advice on our specialist advice lines on a range of issues which encompass family, criminal and immigration and asylum law. Our advice lines are free and confidential to women in England and Wales and all our advisors are experienced solicitors and barristers. The advice line aims to help women understand their legal rights and options and give them the confidence to take legal action. One of our callers described the line as a “survival line” and another told us: “You have given me a back bone. Finally I have some real information and a plan. I feel elated…” Professionals that support women are also able to access our advice lines.
Legal guides and handbooks
Rights of Women provide legal guides and handbooks on family, criminal and immigration and asylum law. Our legal guides and handbooks explain the law and legal system in clear and simple language. The family law guides include guides on parental responsibility, child arrangements when parents separate and lesbian parenting. Most of our guides are available to download from the get information section of our website.
As part of our immigration services we have established our Woman network which is a forum for information sharing for professionals. The network was established in 2013 and we now have over 500 members who range from women working in the violence against women sector, lawyers/adviser, academics and students.
We offer training to professionals who work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence in relation to immigration, family and criminal law. For example, we currently offer courses on supporting women and girls at risk of forced marriage and female genital mutilation and coercive control. We have recently run an immigration course on Domestic violence, immigration control and migrant women. You can find out more about our training courses here.
Policy and campaigns
We work to ensure that women’s voices are heard at the highest levels and to bring about real change in women’s access to the law and justice. We work to influence law and policy change by undertaking original research, responding to Government and other consultations, briefing Parliamentarians and building the capacity of women’s and other organisations to do the same.
One key area of campaign work has involved the cuts to legal aid which disproportionately impact upon survivors of domestic violence. In 2014 we issued a legal challenge in relation to the overly strict evidence criteria that survivors of domestic violence had to comply with before accessing family law legal aid. After an appeal hearing in the Court of Appeal on 28 January 2016 the two year time limit for evidence was ruled unlawful and the Government was required to amend the legal aid regulations to ensure that women experiencing financial abuse are able to access family law legal aid.
Further information on all our services is available on our website www.rightsofwomen.org.uk