Since the establishment in 1974, JURK has provided legal counselling free of charge for more than fifty thousand women. We use the experiences we have gained from this practice in political advocacy work. This has been, and still is, the cornerstone in the ideology that was central for establishing JURK.
Our knowledge about women’s actual legal position has to be communicated to society in order to improve the situation, and thus the legal aid provided has a broader aim than merely to assist in the individual case.JURK’s experience from providing legal aid through many decades shows that neither gender-neutral legislation nor the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act guarantees women’s liberation or gender equality between women and men. Female law students from the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo established a women’s group in 1972. In 1974, female jurists and law students from the women’s group established the organization “Free legal aid for women”. The establishment followed from a research project showing that women to an extensive degree lacked knowledge about their legal rights. Further, the research revealed that women had difficulties in using knowledge about their legal rights to improve their own situation. In 1978, the name of the organization was changed to Legal counselling for women – JURK – to avoid similarity to the Office for Free Legal Aid.
At the time the organization was established, JURK’s vision was to defeat suppression of women and to improve women’s legal position. The aim of JURK’s work was to:
- Provide free legal aid
- Examine women’s need for legal aid
- Examine and improve women’s legal position
- Provide practical legal training for law students
Through “Free legal aid for women”, law students were confronted with many of the precarious conditions women were experiencing, and for many jurists in training, meeting these women gave an insightful awareness in the gap that may exist between formal and material law, and the difference between being entitled to a legal right and actually gaining this right.
The experiences from counseling women provided the basis for developing women’s law. Further, this sparked a feminist analysis of the legal system. Women’s law (established as a specific academic discipline at the University of Oslo in 1974, as the first of its kind in Europe) and the rest of the critical law-movement revealed that law is connected to choosing between different values, and that the legal sources are not as objective as jurists like to present them. On the contrary, legal sources have an ability to legitimize the existing.
In the 70s, parts of the legislation were de-gendered and men lost many of their legal advantages. E.g., with the new act on allodium (‘odel’) from 1974, both girls and boys could inherit land, and a new act on names from 1979 changed the situation where a man had the privilege to choose the surname of his family. The Act concerning termination of pregnancy from 1975, providing women a right to self-determination in questions of abortion, was adopted. The Gender Equality Act was adopted in 1978, but was strongly criticized by former members of JURK who were of the opinion that the act provided gender equality on paper, but not in reality.
In the early 1970s, human rights from a women’s perspective was not a part of the newly established women’s law discipline. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 and came in force in 1982. 162 countries have ratified the convention, but many of these have made reservations against central provisions limiting the scope of commitment for the state and thus the protection offered.
The legal framework today is gender neutral, formally. However, practice shows that women often are in a worse position compared to men in a conflict situation. Thus, gender-neutral legislation does not automatically provide gender equality in reality.
In 1975, “Free Legal Aid for Women” had 27 employees and handled 265 cases. In 2000, JURK had 14 active employees and handled more than 3,000 cases. The amount of inquiries is continuously increasing, and the capacity is not large enough to help everyone that asks JURK for help.
Free Legal Aid for Women, JURK, offers lectures to minority women about their legal rights and duties. Booking and attending our lectures are free of charge. Knowledge and information about rights in Norway is a precondition to claim rights and participate in society in line with other people.
An important part of JURK’s work is thus to inform women about their legal rights. We do this by giving lectures and through individual counselling.
JURK gives lectures to minority women free of charge.
Following our lectures, we receive new cases from individuals at the venue. We bring the cases back to our office for an assessment.
For some of our lectures, we have made workbooks for further work on the topics raised in the lecture.
We offer four lectures:
1. Introduction to labor law and discrimination. The lecture addresses the most important rules that applies to the workplace and rules concerning discrimination. The lecture will be suitable for minority women at language level 2 or 3 in Norwegian. The lecture is also suitable for women who are (almost) fluent in Norwegian wanting more information about labor law.
2. Introduction to Norwegian law. The topics addressed are migration law, marriage and divorce, children and parents and domestic violence and abuse. The lecture is suitable for women at language level 2 in Norwegian.
3. Introduction to family and children’s law.
4. Domestic violence and abuse. If the lecture exceeds an hour, it will also include information about the Norwegian child welfare services.
How to book lecture?
We are very flexible in terms of when and where we can give our lectures. We give lectures both during and after working hours, however primarily in the Oslo region. We give lectures for small and bigger groups.
We use Power Point for our lectures. We can bring a computer if necessary, but need a projector or similar at the venue. If that is difficult to arrange, we can hand out printouts of the lecture instead.
If none of our standard lectures fit your needs, we can consider whether we have the capacity to make a lecture appropriate for the particular audience.
However, all our lectures are aimed at women and we thus recommend that the audience consist of women, and women only. If it is not possible to divide women and men, we can give lectures for mixed groups.
Unfortunately, we do not have the opportunity to bring an interpreter. However, we can give lectures with an interpreter if the group booking us organize and pay for it.
The Law Ambassadors project (train the trainers)
JURK runs a project called The Law Ambassadors. We use a so called “train the trainers” model, which means that we provide legal training to women from the Polish and Thai community in Norway (Law Ambassadors). These Law Ambassadors will then spread the information in their communities.
As of today, we follow up between 35 to 40 Law Ambassadors, and assume that we reach at least 800 to 1,000 women who learn about their legal rights through our project. We have given lectures on debt and economic violence, legal rights in situations of divorce and death, and violence against women.
Every year, JURK organizes a seminar where the Law Ambassadors receive an introduction in relevant legal rules, including a training in giving lectures on different legal topics. We also produce a number of brochures in the native language of the Law Ambassadors about legal rights and information about where to obtain legal assistance.
The Law Ambassadors pass on the information to their communities. Because the Law Ambassadors reside throughout Norway, we also reach clients all over Norway. Many of these reside in places far away from any legal aid-institutions.
The project is run in collaboration with and is partly financed by The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi).