During the spring of 2016, students in the International Human Rights Law Master’s Programme at Lund University had the opportunity to gain hands on experience working with a number of different NGOs.
The month-long module, Gender and Human Rights, was initiated by RWI affiliated professor Martha Davis, who wanted to adopt an experiential education approach similar to that of her home Law School, Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. “We are convinced that combining classroom work with experience is the best way to learn – and there is plenty of data to back that up,” says Davis.
Davis wanted the effort her students made to have a dual purpose, for them to learn more about a specific issue while also having their work recognized as a serious contribution to the work of the NGOs.
“Through this, they learn something about lawyer-client relationships, professional responsibility and teamwork as well as the areas of substantive law that they are working in. It’s a different experience from writing a research paper that won’t go beyond the professor’s desk,” she says.
The class was divided into four groups, each tackling a different project proposed by the participating international human rights organizations. Two projects were proposed by the Due Diligence Project, one by Equality Now, and one by the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-NET).
The NGO, the Due Diligence Project focuses on giving meaning to the term “due diligence” in the context of assessing whether or not governments are complying with their due diligence obligations to eradicate or address violence against women. Equality Now is a global women’s rights organization, and ESCR-NET is a global clearinghouse for information and tools to address economic, social and cultural rights.
“The partner organizations were very impressed with the final products and are putting the work to use,” Davis says.
The work in the ESCR-Net project is contributing to a wider project by ESCR-Net’s Women and ESCR Working Group, and will be applied and further developed by the members of the Working Group.
Massive Legal Vacuum on the Internet
Lea Bozzi, a student within the Master’s Programme, worked with the Due Diligence Project and focused on online violence against women. The final product of her group’s research was a 40-page research project.
The group studied the practices of three countries (the UK, Sweden, and the Philippines) and one American state (California) to see how they dealt with online violence against women through existing statutes, legislative proposals and case-law. “I was quite surprised to find out that the Philippines has something quite good going when it comes to protecting women from online violence in comparison to Sweden considering the fact that Sweden ranks so high in gender equality,” says Bozzi.
Her project also focused on regional and international instruments, and whether or not these instruments protect women against online violence.
In addition, the project looked at ECtHR and ECJ case law, existing directives and regulations, as well as existing instruments – including the UN Global Compact and the Ruggie Principles – to see if they could be used to hold companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter accountable for online violence against women.
“There’s a massive legal vacuum when it comes to the internet because it is still so very new and the legislation has not quite caught up. Online violence is widespread and our research has shown me that we need legislation now to protect both women and men. Legislation needs to start regulating the internet as it regulates other spheres of life. There’s quite a long way to go,” Bozzi says.