BLAST

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Awareness Raising Sessions

BLAST undertakes training for its community groups and review sessions on constitutionally protected fundamental rights, human rights, laws related to marriage and child marriage, dowry, polygamy, and other manifestations of violence against women and sexual and reproductive health rights. These sessions are run with groups of unmarried young adolescents (10-14), unmarried and married 15-29 year old females, 18-35 year old unmarried and married males and community Leaders.

These sessions aim to increase awareness in the community of the rights of adolescent girls and young women to live a violence free life; the relevant legal provisions for addressing violence including rights within the family, and the rights to consent and choice with regard to marriage, sex and childbirth.

Providing Legal Services from the One Stop Service Center

Awareness raising activities are backed up by provision of health and legal services from SAFE’s One Stop Service Centers (OSC). Existing Marie Stopes clinics near the project areas host these SAFE OSCs. At the SAFE OSCs Marie Stopes provide SRHR services and BLAST provides legal services.

BLAST’s legal services include:

Providing legal support/ legal aid to SAFE group members and walk-in clients at the one stop service centers located near the project areas. The OSCs are the focal points for the dissemination of information and advice, service provision and referrals. BLAST provides:

  • Legal Advice
  • Mediation
  • Legal Representation
  • Legal Referral points for medical treatment, shelter, psycho-social counseling and or other assistance not covered by the project activities
  • Legal representation in cases where mediation is not permitted

Referral services

Develops referral linkages with other institutions for victims of violence and actively participates in development of protocols for dealing with victims of violence.

Monitoring

Monitors intervention activities and maintains the quality of legal service delivery at the field in collaboration with other four consortium partners. Monitoring is done through monitoring software developed by Population Council and through field visits by the three field coordinators assigned to the three project areas and total of twenty five facilitators working directly with target population.

Advocacy

The intervention involves networking with relevant actors in this sector such as the government, NGOs, police, and the judiciary. BLAST has organized advocacy initiatives on the recognition and realization of women’s right to consent and choice with key actors i.e., law makers and policy makers and focuses in particular, on key actors within the justice system, i.e., police, legal service professionals and the judiciary.

BLAST has and will host workshops and conferences to highlight issues related to SRHR and laws on violence against women. These include hosting an expert panel workshop with doctors, women’s rights activists and lawyers to draw attention to issue of the ‘two-finger test’ that is used in the collection of medical evidence in rape cases to identify whether the victim was habituated to sex in October, 2012 and a National Conference on Practices, Policies and Procedures on Medico Legal Evidence Collection in February, 2013 where over a 100 experts called for, among others, the abolition of the ‘two-finger’ test. The advocacy was catalyzed by BLAST’s research paper entitled “Medical Evidence in Rape Case in Bangladesh: Law and Practice” (20009). BLAST, with ASK, also organized a National Workshop on Monitoring the Implementation of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection), Act 2010 in March 2013 that involved participation of judges and magistrates, members of the police force, enforcement officers and representatives of women rights organizations.

BLAST has conducted training workshops with the police and community leaders on gender equality and laws on violence against women and trainings for marriage registrars and ward commissioners on gender and equality, family laws relating to marriage including importance of age verification and a judgment of the High Court in this regard.


About BLAST

BLAST is one of the leading legal services organizations in Bangladesh, and the only one that provides access to legal aid across the spectrum, from the front lines of the formal justice system to the apex court. It prioritizes support to women, men and children living in poverty or facing disadvantage or discrimination. It also provides legal aid, advice and representation across a range of areas, including civil, criminal, family, labor and land law, as well as on constitutional rights and remedies, providing access to judicial remedies alongside alternative dispute resolution wherever appropriate. Alongside individual legal aid, BLAST undertakes strategic litigation, or public interest litigation, as a key part of its advocacy for law and policy reforms to ensure effective legal protection of rights.

BLAST has gained proven expertise in providing legal aid to poor and disadvantaged clients, having undertaken some 57,467 cases to date. Over the years, out of 1,15,182 applications received for legal assistance, BLAST responded to 20,133 applications by resolving them through mediation. It has also filed about 82 public interest litigation cases before the Supreme Court of Bangladesh as part of its advocacy for law and policy reforms to address institutional obstacles to justice delivery. It regularly undertakes awareness programs on legal rights for community members in its areas of operation, including family laws, criminal law and land laws. It is also involved in regular coordination meetings with local administration officials, in particular with key actors within the justice system, including members of the judiciary and legal profession, and with civil society organizations.

Currently operating in 19 districts across the country, BLAST works through its staff lawyers (and paralegals and researchers) at headquarters and in each district unit, in collaboration with its enlisted panel of about 2300 lawyers across the country who provide legal redress to clients on a pro bono basis, with a nominal honorarium. A panel of lawyers practicing in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh also undertakes litigation and advocacy on law and policy reform.

BLAST is governed by a Board of Trustees comprised of eminent jurists, lawyers, and human rights advocates. Besides its own core staff lawyers at headquarters and at each district unit, BLAST has an enlisted panel of about 2300 lawyers across the country who provide legal redress to clients on a pro bono basis, with a nominal honorarium. It is also well represented by lawyers pursuing its cases in the High Court Division and Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

Staff Bio

Sara Hossain
Executive Director, BLAST

Sara Hossain is a barrister and has practiced in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, mainly in the areas of constitutional, public interest and family law, since 1992. She is a partner at the law firm of Dr. Kamal Hossain and Associates (www.khossain.com), and is currently serving pro bono as the Executive Director of the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (www.blast.org.bd). She is a member of, among others, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a national human rights organization, the Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA), the Human Rights Committee of the International Law Association (ILA), the Advisory Committee of the Women’s International Coalition on Gender Justice (WICG); and a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Sara earlier ran the South Asia Programme at INTERIGHTS from 1997 to 2003, and was a founding board member of the South Asia Women’s Fund (SAWF).

Sara’s casework at BLAST has included public interest litigation on ‘fatwa’ violence, including cases of corporal punishment being imposed on women and girls accused of violating community norms on sexuality, ‘forced veiling’ and the issue of medical evidence in rape cases and abolition of the ‘two finger test’.

Sara writes and speaks on public interest law, human rights and women’s rights and access to justice. Her recent publications include "Confronting Constitutional Curtailments: Attempts to Rebuild Independence of the Judiciary in Bangladesh," in Paul Brass (ed) Handbook of Politics in South Asia (Routledge, 2010), ‘Wayward Girls and Well-Wisher Parents: Habeas Corpus, Women’s Rights to Consent and the Bangladesh Courts” in Aisha Gill (ed) Forced Marriage (Zed, London 2010); (with Bina de Costa) “Redress for Sexual Violence Before the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh: Lessons from History, and Hopes for the Future” in Criminal Law Forum, Volume 21, Number 2, 331-359; (Co-edited with Lynn Welchman) “Honour”: Crimes, Paradigms and Violence against Women (Zed Books, London, 2005), and (co-edited with Dina M. Siddiqi) Human Rights in Bangladesh 2007 (ASK, Dhaka, 2008).

Sara was educated at Wadham College, Oxford (MA (Hons) 1988), called to the Bar from Middle Temple (1989), enrolled in the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh (1992) and then in the Appellate Division in 2008. She earlier received awards from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First), and Ananya, and was a World Economic Forum Fellow and an Asia 21 Fellow.

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