Practicalities

  • Where women bear primary responsibilities for care of dependents and are more confined to domestic settings, it may be more difficult for women to travel to your organization’s offices – let alone to national or international hearings. Women and girls may suffer greater time poverty than men and boys, as they must often shoulder a triple burden of productive work, care work within the family, and community work, with minimal support in domestic chores from relatives who are men due to traditional gender norms. The need to be present at offices and courts may exacerbate women and girls’ time poverty, and should be discussed from the outset with participants. It may also be that social norms restrict women’s mobility based on traditional notions of decency and independence – be attentive to such dynamics in your context. One suggestion is to allow the client to bring their children and have a toy box in a part of the room. The child should generally not be in the room because there is a danger that attorney-client privilege will be waived, but attorneys must understand that care should be given to familial responsibilities and daycare availability for the client.
  • It is vital to ascertain whether the clients’ children are also at risk of gender based violence (GBV), by talking to the family. This must not entail any breach of confidentiality. Rather, it is necessary to acknowledge that there is a risk that patterns of GBV are sustained, and address this risk. If a mother is very young it may be a sign of GBV and exploitation – make the necessary enquiries.
  • Women in certain contexts are likely to have lower socio-economic means (due to limited ownership of and access to productive assets and credit) and educational level than men, particularly in terms of literacy/competence in their non-native language, resulting in greater difficulties in accessing services. This may affect their ability to pay court or other fees and to understand and follow the litigation processes. Limited opportunities for meaningful participation in formal and informal community institutions may mean that women are less experienced, and thus less confident in such settings and may require extra coaching or preparation before appearing in court, for example.
  • A lack of facilities for breast-feeding or for young children at your offices, courts, or other public institutions may discourage mothers from attending vital steps in the litigation process.
  • A committed client may become pregnant during the litigation process, limiting their engagement in travel and hearings. Investigate remote court participation preemptively (e.g. video-links, or child-friendly provisions). Check how to expand protection cases in your jurisdiction to include new children. Take care to go through any administrative steps that may be required, keeping in mind that refugee status determination (RSD) cases are often individual, though dependents can receive protection through alternative processes of derivative status.
  • Other unforeseen eventualities may occur during a strategic litigation process spanning several years. For example, a client may have a sex-change, or wish to identify as a different gender. This should be a straight-forward administrative procedure. It is important to let clients know that they have the option to identify as a different gender, and it is important for you to respect clients’ identity in your own communications and in all written documents.
  • Many women whose immigration status is insecure may employ coping strategies, such as entering into relationships with local men, for financial protection or protection from deportation. Such relationships of convenience have the potential to break down, particularly over the span of a lengthy litigation process, and a client may suddenly encounter financial hardship or even homelessness, and consequently reduced mobility and ability to commit. It could be helpful to be aware of such living situations among your clients.
  • A teenage or child client may withdraw consent to the case later. Therefore, it is essential to work with the individual to gain an understanding about how the case is expected to develop, the required commitments and the potential effects, as early on as possible, and to communicate these in an age-appropriate way. A 15-year-old litigant may be 50 before a decision is reached – age and maturity must be factored into considerations before bringing cases with young litigants.