Track F report by Alan MSOSA
The presenters were taken from different region to discuss their experiences on how their organizations have used the law and litigation as advocacy for influencing change.
Key messages/ Issues from the session
· Litigants have a role to play in advocacy
· Training of lawyers and judiciary in HIV/AIDS issues can influence change
· Finding political allies can play a significant role to mobilise change
· Litigation must be combined with advocacy that involves other actors such as the general public, media and other experts with a stake in the issue (e.g. doctors etc)
· There is need to balance what we want out of advocacy as human rights activists and what relief people affected would like to see.
Summary issues in the Presentations:
Priti Patel noted that some courts are not readily accessible to the public and that affects how the public gets involved in advocacy during strategic litigation. Legal systems in former British colonies which prohibit people to speak about court proceedings also affect advocacy on an issue which is in court. However, combining strategy litigation and other advocacy strategies (including media outreach) is good for mobilising support. By mobilising the public around strategic litigation, ‘the courtroom was opened for people living with HIV’ Priti Said
Linda Dumba, who is litigating for women who were forcibly sterilised in Namibia, noted that medical personnel did not want to get involved in condemning the practice in Namibia, with the exception of one doctor who got involved in advocacy against the issue. On questions about involvement of parliamentarians, she acknowledged that parliamentarians are significant in influencing change in the law.
Allan Clear noted that identifying political leaders to become champions in advocacy against harm reduction in the USA influenced a shift in policy. He also illustrated that there are additional strategies to legal action to advocate for change, promting an audience recommend that the presentation slides be used as an educational tool.
Dayong Zhous (Rhiteous Law Firm) from China discussed that there is a need to train lawyers on issues of HIV/AIDS in order to remove the ‘fear’ of HIV so that they can take up issues. There is also a need for experienced organisations to support ‘young’ organisations so that they effectively take up on issues.
On the case of harm reduction advocacy efforts in India, one participant expressed that decriminalisation of drug use may not resolve the issue as drug users may continue to be arrested for other petty crimes such as drug possession etc. As such public health options may be more viable. A combination of advocacy options makes sense as it broadens the range or options for reform.