Women Driving Change: The Journey towards Women’s Legal Empowerment in Bahrain

A small island situated in the middle of the Persian Gulf, the Kingdom of Bahrain is touted as one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East for women’s equality and advancement. It is a diverse and more religiously liberal country in comparison with some of her neighbors. Legally, Bahraini women are recognized in the Bahraini Constitution as equal to Bahraini men in “political, social, cultural and economic spheres of life, without prejudice to the provisions of the Islamic Shariah.” Bahrain is also a member of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and in 2017, adopted the unified Personal Status Law (PSL – known also as the Bahrain Family Law) – an important step in the protection of both Sunni and Shi’ite women under an inclusive legal framework, following trends in the region. Throughout 2020, the Supreme Council for Women took measures to protect these advancements and mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Persistent Challenges for Bahraini Women

Despite the gains made in the past 20 years, systemic barriers to women’s legal equality and empowerment continue to exist. For example, Bahraini citizenship for children is determined by the citizenship of the father. Bahraini women who are married to non-Bahraini men cannot pass their citizenship onto their children, leaving their children effectively stateless and without legal protection.

Some barriers were exacerbated by the restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. For instance, due to mandatory lockdowns and curfews in Bahrain, victims of domestic abuse were forced to reside with their abusers for long stretches of time. One such woman—who for security reasons will remain nameless—wished to obtain a divorce due to domestic abuse she was suffering during the pandemic. However, in Bahrain it is difficult both legally and culturally for a woman to divorce a man, including due to domestic violence. Legally, when a woman files for a divorce due to abuse, the process requires this same woman to first provide proof of the abuse or harm; her word alone is not sufficient. Therefore, women who are subjected to violence—including the woman mentioned here—are forced to first file a police report and a obtain a medical report, following a medical examination, to prove the harm in court. Additionally, the pandemic has delayed court hearing processes and prevented lawyers from meeting with clients.

Culturally, domestic violence is seen as a household issue. There is no official database with domestic violence statistics in Bahrain.  The stigma around reporting domestic violence exists, dissuading anyone from formally moving forward with the process. A man, on the other hand, can submit a request for divorce without even informing his wife and without any cause. 

An Opportunity to Advance Further Legal Reforms

Adopting the unified Personal Status Law in 2017 was a positive step towards women’s equality in Bahrain. Yet there are still improvements to be made, as was revealed by the impacts of the pandemic. Women-led local civil society organizations (LCSOs) are in the driver’s seat and are demanding further reforms. Since 2019, Bahrain’s women-led local civil society organizations have taken the lead on drafting amendments to the unified Personal Status Law and, in December 2020 they finalized a list of amendments to ultimately be presented to the Bahraini parliament for adoption in the future.

In the coming months, these LCSOs will launch a series of advocacy efforts aimed at the amendments’ adoption. This will begin by publishing the proposed amendments and meeting with relevant Bahraini authorities. The work of Bahraini women civil society leaders in the context of shrinking civic space demonstrates the power of long-term, collective efforts. The persistence, resiliency, and determination of this group drive the transformative change for a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous society.

  April 23, 2021

George Floyd’s life mattered.

After less than a day of jury deliberations, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last May. For Floyd’s family, their surprise and relief at the verdict was expressed poignantly in his brother Philonise’s words, “Today we are able to breathe again.”  Many across the nation glued to televisions and Twitter feeds took a collective breath as we realized that our justice system had finally validated that this Black man’s life mattered — and that a system that allowed a White police officer to kill a Black man by kneeling casually on his neck for 9:29 minutes was indefensible and criminal.  Yet however uplifting and validating the verdict, it is worth remembering that many other victims have not yet and may not see justice served. 

Just moments before the verdict was announced, police in Columbus, Ohio fatally shot a 16-year-old Black girl, Ma’Khiah Bryant. It is also not lost on us that just last week, less than 10 miles from where Chauvin stood trial,  Daunte Wright was shot and killed by police during a routine traffic stop. These lost lives are more tragic reminders of the power disequilibrium that systemic racism produces across our nation. Indeed, many police practices reinforce the narrative that Black and Brown lives are threats to society that must be remanded, contained, or even brutalized. This dehumanization wrought by white supremacy in the US places BIPOC at the bottom of a racial hierarchy, where systemic violence perpetuates human rights violations upon communities of color. From mass incarceration to the militarization of police forces that disproportionately target Black and Brown people, these communities have been left at the mercy of the state, and their fury becomes their voice.

The civil resistance in America today is the result of hundreds of years of pain, anger, and fear – and it is our duty to ensure that the Chauvin verdict is a step toward healing the communal trauma of centuries of institutional oppression. The powerful, Black-led movement that organized the largest and most persistent demonstrations in US history is a reminder of how positive social change in this country happens.  We must push our lawmakers to uphold this outcome through a wholesale redesign of our criminal justice system and accountability mechanisms.

Much work and healing remain as we continue to organize and advocate for equitable justice and accountability. We can already see the ramping up of a dangerous counter-narrative from those who portray the verdict as “mob justice” – suggesting that jurors were persuaded not by testimony and evidence but by fear of the potential consequences of a not–guilty verdict – and discussion of passing laws that could target protestors. This is where organizations focused on peacebuilding and democratic reform must demonstrate resolve, vigilance, and leadership. We must amplify messages of social transformation, accountable justice, and healing through a collaborative approach that unifies our voices and networks to truly effect changes in the system that center human life and dignity.

It can seem overwhelming to know where to begin to constructively change an oppressive, abusive system. As peacebuilders, we at PartnersGlobal know that rebuilding trust is one of the cornerstones to any long-term criminal justice reform. Our organization is committed to advocating for change by first acknowledging the collective and personal trauma that our staff is experiencing and allowing ourselves as a team the time to grieve. We also acknowledge that this trauma is felt differently by our Black and Brown colleagues who experience levels of violence and historical marginalization very differently than those with lighter skin. While we know our individual experiences with injustice vary, we believe strongly that we each have a role to play in ensuring that reforms and social transformation will be legitimate, inclusive, and lasting. The Chauvin trial resulted in a guilty verdict because average citizens of all ages, colors, and races took risks to film, speak, organize, and shout about a repugnant murder by law enforcement of a citizen on a calm street in Minneapolis on a typical summer afternoon – and because a jury of peers did its civic duty to hear evidence from all sides and render a just decision that upheld the laws of the state and the principles of our country.

PartnersGlobal will make every effort to uplift and assist our peer organizations working on the front lines of racial injustice and social reform in the United States, offering support to these groups to stay resilient in this long struggle. We recognize that expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and others working to end the dehumanization of people of color is not enough. Yet it represents a critical start for collaborative advocacy and restorative justice. As we call for police to end the use of illegal force and brutality—beatings, racial abuse, unlawful killings, torture, or indiscriminate use of riot control agents —we know that the verdict doesn’t equate to the greater justice we need without systemic change. And we recognize that it will take many different groups and constituencies – activists, community leaders, policymakers, and police themselves – to achieve these kinds of structural reforms.  

We encourage our extended Partners family to join us in supporting the struggle for Black lives whether by donating money, attending protests, amplifying Black voices online, or being willing to have difficult conversations about race and racism in the US.

We honor the memories and legacies of those killed by police. To read their stories, visit:

by Fatema Al Majed   January 24, 2021

Female citizens of Bahrain married to foreigners demand citizenship for their children

Through its Strengthening Implementation of the Personal Status Law in Bahrain program, PartnersGlobal focuses on the citizenship topic as one of several areas for improvement in the implementation of the personal status law

This article was originally published in Arabic by Raseef22. The English version below has been edited for clarity.

There are many questions that Bahraini women who are married to foreigners carry as a weight on their shoulders, which raise certain fears for their future.

This anxiety overtakes their hopes, and their lives begin to seem like open-ended stories. These women are in constant search for answers to their endless questions and their children are in constant search for identity. It is an identity that they know very well but that does not officially belong to them or appear in their documents, even though they feel it in their sense of belonging, dialect, and customs!

Apprehensions around residence permits of a foreign husband and children

Shaikha, one such woman in this position, tells Raseef 22:

“The future worries me, for a person could die any time, and I can’t help thinking: ‘What will my children do after my death? How will they remain in Bahrain?’

I currently do not face any financial difficulties due to my good financial situation and my position at work, but I cannot help thinking about my children’s residency in Bahrain after they exceed the legal age as I will not be able to sponsor their stay after they exceed the legal age. So, what will happen if my son does not find a job after completing education? Will he be deported? Should they find a job, will they be treated as foreigners in the only country they have known?”

Shaika’s suffering started 13 years ago when she married a Moroccan man. Although Bahraini law allows Bahraini men to sponsor (citizenship for) their foreign wives, this does not apply to Bahraini women married to foreigners.

“My fears started to grow after I had my kids,” Shaikha says. “Will my kids be able to inherit my house if I died? Today foreigners are allowed to own property only in investment areas and my house is situated in a residential area. Will my children’s rights to the house be acknowledged?”

She continues: “I have been able to overcome many situations but there are many more to come.  For instance, at the beginning of my marriage I received the electricity bill, which had not been paid by the government as it should be for Bahraini citizens. I went to the authorities with complete certainty that it must be some sort of mistake, for I am a Bahraini citizen, and the lease agreement is under my name, and it is my right that the electricity should be supported by the government! The employee working there told me, “The word ‘citizens’  refers to male citizens!”

No right to housing, no accommodations

“I feel helpless, and my children’s basic rights have turned into unattainable dreams for me.”

This is how 27-year-old M.A.H (who chose to be referred to by her initials for this story) describes her situation. She dreams of enrolling her 5-year-old daughter in nursery school. However, financial difficulties stand in her way.

In a voice filled with pain she says, “The suffering I am going through is bigger than me finding words to describe it. I am a mother of two girls, the eldest is five and the youngest is one and a half. I am married to a Pakistani man. He had applied for citizenship in 2006 and is still waiting. I am worried that my children’s future will be like their father’s, especially since the law today prioritizes Bahrainis. We do not receive help from the government in terms of financial support, employment, or unemployment.”

She adds: “I am facing family issues with my husband’s family, and we do not have a place to live. So, my family and I keep moving from one place to another without any source of income, for my husband is currently unemployed and is ineligible to receive unemployment from the Ministry of Labor and Economic Development because it is only given to Bahraini citizens, even though his mother is Bahraini! I borrow money every time his residence permit is due for renewal and I live on the charity of others that may or may not come! So, I wait and worry!”

Citizenship application requests stopped for an unknown period!

M. points out that she submitted an official application request for her 5-year-old daughter with the Nationality, Passports and Residency Affairs by filling out the application forms, attaching the birth certificate, the Bahraini mother’s passport, a letter from the mother, as well as an official paper showing that the children are in the custody and sponsorship of their Bahraini mother. Yet there is no specified timeframe for her to get an answer to this request.

As for her second daughter, the mother learned that the window for submitting citizenship applications is currently closed for an unknown period due to the coronavirus.

She explains: “Following up on the matter has become difficult, and the wait has become terrifying because it means that my daughter will wait longer until she is granted citizenship. These requests take a very long time, and I am afraid that she will reach the legal age without a citizenship and then be trapped in this dilemma of solving her residency.”

M. continues: “I feel that everything in life is against me. I even requested financial aid from the authorities that provide financial support to low-income citizens, and my request was rejected because I am married to a non-Bahraini.”

She concludes by saying that she still tries communicating with the relevant authorities from the Royal Court to the Supreme Council for Women as well as all the civil women associations with no solution whatsoever!

Amending the law to be in line with the Bahraini Constitution

Article 4 of the Bahraini Nationality Law of 1963 states that a person is considered a Bahraini if he was born in Bahrain or outside Bahrain and his father was a Bahraini at the time of his birth. It is also possible to apply for citizenship upon fulfilling a set of conditions set forth in the law itself.

In 2017, The Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Security in parliament rejected two proposals for a law aimed at granting nationality to the children of a Bahraini mother married to a foreigner, explaining that “the issue of granting Bahraini nationality is related to the state’s sovereignty, which does not require expanding the grant of the citizenship without restrictions.”

In this context, Mariam Al Rowaie, an activist in the field of women’s rights and empowerment, says: “The fundamental solution to this issue is to amend Article (4) of the Bahraini Nationality Law to be in line with the spirit of the Bahraini constitution, which stipulates and affirms equality between women and men.”

Regarding temporary solutions for this matter, Al-Rowaie – who is a member of the Nationality Committee of the Bahrain Women’s Union and the head of the Tafawuq Consulting Center for Development – stated that it is possible to take measures to treat the children of Bahraini women equally when it comes to Bahraini citizenship. She pointed to the issuance of Law 35 in 2009 requiring that non-Bahraini wives married to Bahraini citizens and children of Bahraini women be treated the same as citizens in the fields of education and health. However, there are some loopholes and is not effectively implemented.

Al-Rowaie continues in her interview with Raseef22: “The children of Bahraini women are still deprived of scholarships. There is a woman whose son’s average exceeded 98 percent, and he did not obtain a scholarship. These children do not fully benefit from health services like the rest of the citizens, and their residency in the Kingdom is temporary and not permanent.”

Until the law is amended, Al-Rowaie demanded real solutions that end or alleviate their suffering, such as issuing a card that qualifies children of Bahraini women to benefit from privileges in employment, housing, social insurance, and residency.

Efforts of governmental and civil institutions

More than ten years ago, the Supreme Council for Women in the Kingdom of Bahrain launched a service to follow up on citizenship requests for the children of Bahraini mothers married to foreigners after these requests are submitted to the Nationality, Passports and Residency Affairs at the Ministry of Interior. The service seeks close out the requests with relevant authorities and expedite the acquisition of citizenship for these children.

In 2005, the Bahrain Women’s Union launched a campaign called, “Nationality is a right for me and my children.” The ongoing campaign activities include holding educational and awareness events, sharing information through media and social media, and meeting with members of parliament and with the Supreme Council for Women.

Children without citizenship and rejected requests

In one of the seminars organized by the Bahrain Women’s Union, Muhammad Ghulam, the son of a Bahraini woman who married an Iranian and separated from him a year after she gave birth, said, “I lived all my life with my mother in my grandfather’s house, and I do not have any nationality. I married a Bahraini woman, and we had our first child, and now my child is suffering from what I suffered because she is like me. She also is without a nationality!”

Nedaa Ali recounted her story in the same seminar. Some parts of the story were shared with Raseef 22.

She says, “I am a Bahraini citizen who married a Pakistani man and gave birth to three children born in Bahrain. Then my husband died. I have knocked on the doors of the Ministry of Housing more than once for being a widowed citizen, unemployed, and the sole breadwinner of my family, but my application was rejected because the children are non-Bahrainis.”

Zahra Salman narrates her story at the same seminar, stating, “I married an Iraqi man 37 years ago, and when we wanted to settle in Bahrain, I was unable to sponsor him back then and today he must be registered as an employee. Now that he has reached the age of sixty, we are facing difficulties in renewing his residency because of a law that stipulates that expatriates over the age of sixty can only renew their residency if they are in specialized occupations.”

She adds, “As for my children, I cannot sponsor them because they are over the age of eighteen and face difficulties in acquiring residency. I also have a daughter who is married to an Iraqi citizen, and I suffer greatly whenever we try to issue a visit visa for her.”

These are the voices that we were able to hear, but there are many others that we could not reach. Whenever we hear a story, we say that it’s terrible, and then we hear of greater suffering. The suffering grows and multiplies, and only the questions and confusion remain.

We wonder and search for solutions. We want to know how granting citizenship to the children of Bahraini women will affect the state’s sovereignty. What are the obstacles coming between granting the children of Bahraini women permanent residency? How long will these voices continue calling and remain unanswered?

  November 10, 2020

We are pleased to share with you an opportunity for local civil society organizations interested in participating in a capacity building process to strengthen their resiliency in the face of potential impacts of growing restrictions on civic space. The Resiliency+ Process, developed out of the need for a new organizational model to combat the rise of changing civic spaces around the world, will take selected organizations through a structured process to increase their organizational resilience over a period of 12 months. This opportunity is part of a larger initiative under the USAID-funded Enabling and Protecting Civic Spaces (EPCS) – Illuminating New Solutions and Programmatic Innovations for Resilient Spaces or INSPIRES activity.

Organizations based in Ecuador, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Serbia will be eligible to apply. At a minimum, organizations must be a locally registered civil society organization, have at least four years of experience, and be committed to the 12-month process. Please see the attached documents for more details.

If you’re interested in participating in this opportunity, please fill out this Google Form Application by 11:59 pm EST on the following dates:

  • Kenya: November 6th
  • Nigeria, Serbia, and Senegal: November 16th
  • Ecuador: November 27th
  • Georgia: December 1st

Please feel free to contact us at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

Check the documents below for more details:

  May 25, 2020

This interview is part of a longer article. Read the full post “Justice in the time of COVID-19: Innovations to preserve rule of law, rights & safety in Nigeria” here

Q: How prepared was the Nigeria Police Force to handle the COVID-19 pandemic?

Oluwakemi Okenyodo, Executive Director at Partners West Africa Nigeria

A: Since the lockdown issued by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigeria Police Force has found itself at the forefront of ensuring compliance with the lockdown directives by members of the public.  The Nigeria Police Force, like most of the government agencies in Nigeria, were not prepared for the situation in which the country finds itself. There has been no special training for the police officers apart from their routine training, which many of us in civil society have argued is outdated.

The police ought to be trained on how to be first responders and interact more with the citizens in a way that raises awareness about the pandemic and encourages people to obey the lockdown directive for their safety. What is lacking is a police force that exercises restraint in using the force they are accustomed to using and one that puts on a human face in discharging their authority. The majority of the police rank and file officers who interact with citizens on a daily basis are the least educated and therefore more prone to use force to ensure obedience or to extort bribes from citizens. They lack the social skills to engage peacefully with the public and have difficulty in balancing the rights of citizens against their duties.

Q: Why have we seen so much violence from the police during this period? What does this mean for Nigeria’s adoption and implementation of community policing?

A: Excessive use of force by the police on citizens continues to be a challenge despite various attempts by the government, including the Nigerian Police Force itself, and civil society, to address this issue. The police organization has to double its efforts to ensure its officers are trained and reoriented to be service inclined.

The police need to see citizens, who are the taxpayers, as their bosses and understand that they are answerable to citizens. Accountability of the police to members of the public and other stakeholders needs to be strengthened through multiple strategies. For example, the National Human Rights Commission, Police Service Commission, and the Complaints Response Units need to be proactive and dynamic.

There is a lot of public mistrust of the police and this is heightened in light of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result police misconduct. Sadly, Nigerians, out of necessity, have taken matters into their own hands, as has been seen in Lagos, where citizens on the mainland formed vigilante groups to protect themselves from criminal gangs such as “the one million boys.”

With proper guidance on community policing, Nigerian citizens will serve as a supportive mechanism to the Nigerian police force. The police need to be proactive and discerning in discharging their duties so as to gain public trust and respect. Without building upon public trust, community policing is sure to fail as, community support is essential to the police maintaining law, peace, and order.

Q: What is the Nigerian Police Force doing to ensure the safety of officers as they interact with citizens?

A: Apart from the orientation about the preventive measures that need to be taken in order to keep safe against the COVID-19 virus, I do not think there is any coordinated organizational response of providing personal protective equipment kits for police officers on the frontline.

When the lockdown order was issued by the President, the Inspector-General of Police issued a directive, that indiscriminate arrests and detention should not be made by the police. Recently Partners West Africa Nigeria issued a statement calling on the federal and state governments to provide personal protective equipment and essential infrastructure to the police. The statement can be found on our website. Many police stations lack the basics, such as running water or soap, let alone masks, hand sanitizers, and other equipment to operate safely.

Q: What role is the police going play in responding to COVID-19 now that lockdown restrictions in Abuja have been eased?

A: They will continue to play this dual role of enforcing government guidelines requiring face masks and social distancing alongside their primary responsibility of maintaining law and order.  The society still faces its normal challenges, criminality still exists. Gender-based violence, such as domestic violence, has peaked during the lockdown period because victims were confined in the same space as their abusers.

About Partners West Africa Nigeria

The Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative is also known as Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN). We are a non-governmental organization dedicated to enhancing citizens’ participation and improving security governance in Nigeria and West Africa broadly, which we achieve through our Rule of Law and Citizens Security Program Areas.

The organization does this through research, collaborative advocacy, capacity building, dissemination of information and integrating the implementation of government policies such as United Nations Resolution 1325, Women Peace and Security Second Generation National Action Plan (NAP 2), Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism National Action Plan (P/CVE NAP), Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law (ACJA/L), UN Resolution 2250 amongst others which are complementary to our strategic objectives.

We are a member of the Partners Network which is a network of 22 like-minded national organizations around the world, united by common approaches including participatory decision making, collaborative advocacy, consensus building and social entrepreneurship for democratic governance.

  May 25, 2020

NULAI Program Director Odi Lagi
This interview is part of a longer article. Read the full post “Justice in the time of COVID-19: Innovations to preserve rule of law, rights & safety in Nigeria” here

Q: How do the mobile courts work?

A: The mobile courts only prosecute offenders of the Quarantine Act and are manned by up to two Magistrates. The accused are brought by the police to the court, not sent to jail/lock up. The courts themselves are dismantled daily, and do not sit in a particular location, but are permitted to move within their jurisdiction. Magistrates only issue non-custodial sentences such as fines ranging from 1,000- 3,000 Naira; community service such as sweeping roads and picking up litter, impounding of cars and motorcycles, even detention under trees located close to the courts. Court proceedings are attended by police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, the Federal Road Safety Corps, and Abuja Environmental Protection Board. All of these agencies are members of Nigeria’s COVID 19 Task Force.

Q: How does NULAI’s partnership with the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja work? What was the motivation behind this partnership?

A: NULAI formed this partnership in an attempt to prevent additional remands to the Nigeria Correctional Service, which would only increase pretrial detention in Keffi and Kuje Custodial Centers where the Reforming Pre-Trial Detention in Nigeria project is being implemented. The partnership provides legal representation in Abuja, at the mobile courts through a team of volunteer lawyers sourced from the Nigerian Bar Association, while NULAI monitors court proceedings.

The lawyers are assigned to the 13 mobile courts across Abuja and the surrounding suburbs. In some courts, presiding Magistrates have requested the pro bono lawyers to defend all accusers, while other Magistrates permitted legal representation to those who expressly stated they required these services. All defendants are asked if they would like to represent themselves. At the beginning of May, a total of 2,986 people had been prosecuted by mobile courts in Abuja.

Q: The Nigeria Corrections Service Act was enacted last year to establish non-custodial sentencing, among other things. How has this type of sentencing worked practically in the COVID-19 context? What has the response by the Nigeria Correctional Service been to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the corrections system?

A: Nigeria Correctional Service is mandated by law to supervise non-custodial sentencing. However, in the case of the mobile courts the task force team supervises these sentences. This measure was put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the correctional system. However, it is not clear how well this will work because, for instance, defendants required to sweep the roads as part of their sentencing are not provided soap or water to wash their hands before they use brooms to sweep streets. They all use the same broom! It is conceivable, the lack of proper hygiene will likely cause additional COVID-19 cases.

To date there has been no case of COVID-19 recorded by the Nigeria Correctional Service; however, one should keep in mind that there is no testing, and personal protective equipment is scarce within the correctional system. The Nigeria Correctional Service has banned external access to its facilities to reduce potential transmission of COVID.

Q: How could Nigeria better prepare for future pandemics or global crises and, in particular, prepare courts to ensure they remain functional?

A: Our courts have been closed since March, with the exception of extenuating time sensitive matters. This has further prolonged pretrial detention not just at Keffi and Kuje Custodial Center but across Nigeria’s 36 states. The coronavirus has underscored the need to integrate technology and digital processes in court proceedings. This step, in tandem with other reforms, would ease and speed up judicial processes. If the Nigeria Correctional Service  Information Management System were deployed across all correctional and custodial centers, if the judiciary, Directorate of Public Prosecution, and police had effective information management systems, then it is likely pretrial detainees would have been able to have their cases heard. Going forward, the courts should pursue non-custodial alternatives vigorously. This will help check or reduce pretrial detention, which would only help the Correctional Service to better manage future spread of disease throughout the correctional system.


The Network of University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) Nigeria was established on 16th October 2003. It is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission Nigeria as NULAI Nigeria (Limited by Guarantee – RC650698), a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political organization committed to promoting clinical legal education, legal education reform, legal aid and access to justice.

  May 26, 2020

To protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19, public health experts tell us to keep a safe distance from others and to shelter in place at home. But for millions of prisoners around the globe, held in crowded facilities and with little autonomy over their environments, these precautions are all but impossible, leaving them susceptible to infection.

PartnersGlobal’s Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and Accountable Governance Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo

Meanwhile, thousands of others waiting for trial or newly entering the justice system may find themselves increasingly vulnerable to violations of their rights during this time as governments turn to new security measures to enforce public safety, such as rounding up violators of lock down/quarantine orders, and addressing backlogs in court proceedings pile up.

While COVID-19 forces us to reimagine all aspects of our lives and governments to adapt economies, governance, and public services, we should not overlook its impact on the justice system. How is this crisis affecting access to and the administration of justice? How has the state’s provision of security and maintenance of law and order changed?

The U.S, for example, is witnessing an explosion of COVID-19 cases in prisons. As of May 13, the US recorded a total of 25,239 prisoners positive for the coronavirus. Against this sobering reality, states are taking steps to reduce jail and prison populations. Executive orders and other measures have been put in place to release chronically ill and elderly inmates; review cases with low bail amounts; and expedite the release of non-violent offenders and individuals due for release within a 30-day to 4-month period.

U.S. courts are having to innovate and adapt as well to ensure cases proceed swiftly through the criminal justice system. Courts in Texas, for instance, have begun virtual case proceedings. In Seattle, judges have reduced the number of cases that require physical appearances. The U.S. has also seen innovation among its police including the use of drones to enforce social distance guidelines. Some police departments have established online platforms to allow citizens to report non-urgent matters.

Similar innovations are underway in Africa. In Nigeria, where PartnersGlobal implements the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria project, our project partner the Network for University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) is working with the Nigerian Bar Association to provide legal aid to defendants in mobile courts established by the government to prosecute offenders of the Quarantine Act.

Meanwhile, the Government of Nigeria has released elderly, at-risk inmates across the country including from Kuje and Keffi Custodial Centers, where the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria project provides legal aid to pretrial detainees. For its part, the Ministry of Justice is exploring the possibility of virtual court proceedings and has minimized the number of people allowed in court rooms. To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been recorded within Nigeria Correctional Service.

To find more about these adaptations and innovations, PartnersGlobal’s Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and Accountable Governance Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo interviewed Nigerian colleagues working on the frontlines of some of these changes to ensure that, despite the pandemic, access to justice and rule of law are preserved.

Click below to read the two Q&As.

About the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria project

Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Law and Narcotics, the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria project targets the Federal Capital Territory/Abuja. The project’s goal is to institutionalize a system of detainee registration, representation, and processing that demonstrates rule of law, respect for human rights, and duty of care for victims, the accused, and their families.

To accomplish this, the project will replicate successes from its predecessor the Reforming Pre-Trial Detention in Kuje Prison project by expanding interventions into Keffi Custodial Center and providing technical assistance to a range of criminal justice institutions including courts, prosecuting agencies, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Nigeria Correctional Service.

It is implemented by PartnersGlobal and our consortium including New-RulePartners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), and the Network of University Legal Aid Institutions in Nigeria (NULAI).

The project will improve the functioning of the information management system utilized by the Nigeria Correctional Service, introduce technology into court proceedings, provide institutional support to improve interagency coordination and address inefficiencies in case management, and works to improve remand warrant procedure. It also provides legal aid at select police stations, strengthens clinical legal education through training and exchange visits, and pairs law students with pro bono lawyers to provide legal representation at Keffi and Kuje Custodial Centers.

by Luis Gomez Chow   December 10, 2019

Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash.

In 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a landmark report on the abuses and human rights violations faced by members of the LGBTQ population in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report focused on the pervasiveness of direct prejudice-based violence perpetrated by state, state-sponsored, and non-state actors, as well as on ongoing indirect violence caused by laws that criminalize same-sex relationships and “nonnormative” gender identities. At the time, eleven countries in the region still had such laws, which the report noted were partly responsible for the recurring violence against LGBTQ populations.

According to the report, between 2013 and 2015, almost 800 LGBTQ persons were victims of direct violence in 25 Latin American countries. This figure, while alarming, represented just the tip of the iceberg as crime against LGBTQ populations is normally underreported.

Half a decade the later, the situation is still dire. Since the publication of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report in 2015, at least 1,300 LGBTQ persons have been murdered in the region.

Central America has been particularly affected by this type of violence, with Honduras and El Salvador having the highest rate of homicide of LGBTQ persons. Both part of the Northern Triangle, these two countries have long suffered from alarming levels of criminality and violence. While these phenomena have touched all levels and sectors of society, LGBTQ populations, particularly transgender women, have faced additional risks and threats linked to prejudice and stigma from both government institutions and the society at large.

These abuses have taken place in a climate of widespread impunity and prejudice, both of which have permeated most state institutions, particularly the justice system. Law enforcement authorities have both systematically ignored crimes against LGBTQ populations and have failed to effectively identify, bring to trial, and sentence the perpetrators.

With the firm belief that LGBTQ rights are human rights, Partners El Salvador and PartnersGlobal have been working with the Federation of LGBTQ Organizations in El Salvador to better advocate for the recognition and protection of their rights. We have worked hand in hand with the Federation to establish long-lasting partnerships with other vulnerable populations and sectors and jointly push for transformational changes at the institutional and societal level. Our joint work has resulted in a common legislative and policy agenda subscribed to by organizations representing not only LGBTQ populations, but also persons with disabilities, youth, and women victims of violence.

On this Human Rights Day, and as the crisis of insecurity and violence deepens in the region and the political space in these countries closes—a trend we are seeing in other regions of the world as well—it is of utmost importance to continue to fight for the consolidation of LGBTQ rights as human rights, support LGBTQ organizations and groups to become strong and credible actors, and foster deeper intersectoral alliances that can contribute to this goal. Only by working together and building broader and stronger constituencies for human rights will we be able to continue moving forward.

Join us. #LGBTQrights #StandUp4HumanRights #HumanRightsDay

Luis Gomez Chow is the Director for Latin America and the Caribbean and Global Advisory Services at PartnersGlobal. He oversees Partners’ Civil Society Resilience portfolio as well as the organization’s peacebuilding and democracy-building programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. He has a decade of experience designing, implementing, and evaluating multi-stakeholder dialogue, negotiation, and consensus-building processes and platforms concerning human rights, access to justice, and human security policies and laws.

  March 11, 2020

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History month by asking our team to reflect on some key questions.

Check out what they had to say. #GenerationEquality

What progress have you seen on women, peace, and security?

What are some of the ways PartnersGlobal and the Partners Network work to advance women’s rights?

Why do you support women’s empowerment and gender equality?

What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

What’s your International Women’s Day message?

Share a women’s empowerment moment that inspired you.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Why do we need more women in leadership?