Name of Project : Promoting Peace and Justice (PPJ)
Competition Reference Number : “Grant Competition: PPJ-2019-001 GRANTS”
Thematic Area : Barishal, 38 Union Parishads of 05 Upazillas
Geographic Coverage : The proposed project will be implemented in Barishal District covering 05 Upazillas (Agoiljara, Gouranadi, Ujirpur, Muladi and Barishal Sadar) and 38 Unions with a total population is 946515 among them Male: 458436 & Female 488079.
Estimated Duration : 24 Months (April 2019 to March 2021)
Brief Overview :
Bangladesh is on-track of becoming a middle- income country by 2021. Income disparity however is still on the rise as economic growth is not reaching the poor in an equitable manner and many still struggles to access to justice. The constitution of Bangladesh states that all citizens are equal before law and entitled to equal protection of law. But due to gender biased, expensive, complex, corrupt and time consuming most of citizens of Bangladesh are unable to access justice from formal courts and a large number of the population live below the poverty line, they have little access to justice to protect their legal rights. On the other hand Large case backlogs, (around 3.4 million cases are pending) and lack of coordination and cooperation between justice sector agencies, are the major causes of this unhealthy situation. Formal justice system remains relatively inaccessible for the vast majority of the people, particularly for the poor and vulnerable groups. As a result, many people turn to the informal justice system as a means for conflict resolution, which is typically controlled by the male village elders who tend to protect the interests of the elites over the rights of the poor, women and marginalized. The inability to access justice is particularly dire on rural women, who are usually depends on their husbands for financial support, leaving them few viable options in the face of abuse, mistreatment, negligence, or abandonment do not have an access to legal claim.
Government has adopted Legal Aid Service Act, 2000, to improve access to justice to address these problems and to make legal aid services accountable, available and accessible for the vulnerable groups. Under the new law there is provision to form different committees from Districts to Union level (DLAC, UZLAC & UPLAC) to make it success. Unfortunately, UZLAC & UPLAC are inactive and when a DLAC is active, the rural people relatively unaware of the program. For the poor and marginalized, especially women, they are unaware how to access legal aid which is more than just appointing a free lawyer; it requires minimum knowledge on legal rights, effective coordination between judges, police & prisons, meaningful communication between clients and lawyers and assist for collection of evidence & production of witnesses. On the other hand the provision of ADR in Legal Aid law is not properly exercised to resolve the cases. The District Legal Aid Committees (DLACs) have introduced Legal Aid Fund (LAF) to provide the poor with free lawyers but not providing any other support to the service receivers, particularly for the distressed to appear before court with proper evidences.
In this context, the proposed project would contribute to make legal aid services accountable, available and accessible for the poor, women, children, religious/ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups and it could be done through create demand of community members and increase knowledge & capacity of duty bearers for effective and accountable legal aid services. The project will motivate DLAC, UZLAC & UPLAC to provide legal aid services that meets the needs of the intended users. The project will establish a coordination mechanism among DLAC, UZLAC & UPLAC and other stakeholders and will facilitate information sharing between the justice providers to better understand their roles. The project will sensitize the committee to their role and responsibilities and provide concrete guidance on effective service delivery. Through this project MLAA will also work with the communities to ensure that people aware of the DLAC, UZLAC & UPLAC will create demand and can monitor the services provided.