UNDP initiative helps vulnerable groups access justice in Botswana
Botswana has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world. The latest country Poverty Survey also known as Botswana Core Welfare Indicator Survey (BCWIS) shows that the country's aggregate measure of income inequality has significantly deteriorated 2002/03. This inequality also manifests itself in disparities between those who can access fair justice and those who do not.
Often times, vulnerable groups are denied the ability to seek remedies in a fair justice system, mainly due to the costs involved.
- Botswana has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world.
- Since the project was initiated in 2011, over 1528 applications for legal aid have been received by March 2013, with more than 40% of them related to family law and mostly made by women.
- Inequality also manifests itself in disparities between those who can access fair justice and those who do not.
In partnership with the Government of Botswana, UNDP has piloted a Legal Aid project aimed at designing a legal aid programme that promotes greater access to justice and utilisation of legal services by Batswana. UNDP work in the country is aimed at promoting effective, responsive, accessible and fair justice systems as we consider this as a pillar of democratic governance.
In Botswana cohabiting is a common practice and in some cases partners live together for decades without getting married. When one party dies, the proprietary consequences can be disastrous. Legal Aid Botswana is assisting an old blind woman to claim compensation for the improvements to a property where she and her partner lived for 20 years. She obtained a grant and built a house on the property, but as the property was in his name alone, after his death, his children are seeking to evict her from the property.
Legal Aid Botswana is also assisting several women to obtain divorces in order to protect them from violent relationships. A common feature of such cases is a succession of reconciliations and separations. Complaints to law enforcement and traditional authorities are met with very variable responses.
Since the project was initiated in 2011, over 1528 applications for legal aid have been received by March 2013, with more than 40% of them related to family law and mostly made by women. Massive awareness campaigns and the enactment of the Legal Practitioners Amendment Bill providing for pro bono as a statutory requirement in place of the current Law Society of Botswana resolution have both contributed to the increase in the number of people seeking legal services.
Realising that in the absence of access to justice, people are unable to have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision-makers accountable, it is planned that the services be expanded to other parts of the country as the pilot stage only involved the country's two big cities; Gaborone and Francistown.