SOCIAL INJUSTICE

Posted on August 30, 2021 · Posted in General, Memo Plus Gold, Personal

The Covid-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on justice systems all over the world. Courts are closing, reducing or adjusting their operations, affecting justice services, especially for marginalized groups.

Structural inequalities are exacerbated as the economic fallout of the crisis unfolds and legal problems related to detention, employment, housing, and debt are on the rise. Risks of violence against women and children have increased, especially as many of us are confined at home. As we move to address some of these unprecedented challenges, the crisis also presents an opportunity to rethink how to ensure access to justice for all.

First, the Covid-19 crisis has compromised justice. Groups that have faced discriminatory obstacles in the past now face even greater challenges. For people in detention, in addition to health risks, there are many issues related to prolonged imprisonment or pre-trial detention due to postponed hearings or limited access to legal aid.

The data also indicates that gender-based violence is rising during the lockdown period and there is an urgency to address justice for women. At a minimum, courts need to be able to prioritize and hear urgent cases such as those related to gender-based violence. This needs to be complemented by preparing for an increase in demand for emergency hotlines, shelters, essential housing, legal aid, and police and justice services.

Second, the oversight role of the judiciary is critical to make sure international human rights standards are respected during emergencies.  Emergency regulations should be proportionate, non-discriminatory, time bound, strictly related to the contagion and subject to review.

Third, the crisis offers an opportunity to innovate. How can we better deliver justice and embrace digital transformation? As the justice sector puts in place business continuity plans, including for remote functioning, we can learn from this and identify what to retain in the future to better enable access to justice through technology.

While seizing the opportunity to modernize the judiciary, a conscious effort must be made to harness technology to make sure that no one is being left behind the digital divide.

Finally, the long-term impact of the crisis accelerates us towards tipping point. We need build an inclusive social contract. Covid-19 has exposed glaring inequalities and inequities. It has highlighted that without protecting the most marginalized and furthest behind, no one is safe. As people feel the brunt of both the public health and socio-economic impact of the crisis, the demand for meaningful change is rising, with worldwide movements demanding equality and social justice.

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