RLC Blog: International Woman’s Day “Inspiring Inclusion begins with all women”

March 8, 2024

As we mark International Women’s Day, I find it difficult to muster optimism. Instead, it is a day of mourning for countless women and children around the globe. The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has claimed the lives of over thirty thousand individuals, predominantly women and children and stands as a stark reminder of the atrocities endured by vulnerable populations in times of war.

Reflecting on this day, I am compelled to acknowledge the heroines who have made significant strides in the legal realm- those who tirelessly advocate for victims and challenge legal norms behind the scenes. Among them, Gareth Peirce’s unwavering dedication over five decades serves as a beacon of inspiration. In the aftermath of the Shamima Begum appeal, her resolute declaration “It is not ended” resonates deeply. Likewise, Jess Phillips MP’s courageous stance, resigning as Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding to vote for a Gaza ceasefire underscores her personal sacrifices versus the party whip.

Yet, amidst the ongoing battles against domestic abuse, sexual violence, and trafficking, charitable foundations like Advance continue to provide vital support to women and girls, navigating them through the complexities of the legal system. Meanwhile, organisations like the Human Trafficking Foundation, led by Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, persist in their efforts to uphold the rights of victims, even as legislative setbacks threaten to undermine progress.

As we navigate these challenges, it is imperative for lawyers to safeguard the integrity of the law and resist political pressures aimed at its erosion. Our role extends beyond legal advocacy; it encompasses a duty to protect the very principles upon which justice stands, ensuring that women’s rights are not merely upheld but fiercely defended. In the words of late Elie Wiesel “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Professor Sue Edwards (Professor in Law, University of Northumbria and Door Tenant Red Lion Chambers)