Bangladesh: Government Legal Aid Brings Justice to the Poor
   

Through USAID’s Justice for All Program in Bangladesh, NCSC is supporting the Ministry of Law and the judiciary to fulfill the constitutional promise of Equal Access to Justice for All by strengthening government-funded legal aid services. In 2014, District Legal Aid Offices in 5 districts received 4,601 new legal aid applications, 57% of which were filed by women. Applications have been on the rise in the past two years, with the total number of clients served representing a 46% increase from 2013 and a 65% increase from 2012.

District Legal Aid Offices provide legal advice and representation to the poor through a government fund. The activation of legal aid committees at community-level has brought services closer to citizens, addressing some of the most common barriers to access to justice: cost of transportation and lost wages. Referrals from legal aid committees are growing exponentially, with more than 40% of all 2014 referrals filed between October and December.

The increase reflects the growing awareness of government legal aid services among target beneficiaries and satisfaction of legal aid recipients. Data shows that jail referrals still represent a large proportion (25%) of all legal aid applications, but citizens are increasingly reaching out to legal aid offices to resolve their civil disputes, especially those related to land and family law matters. As satisfaction with the judicial process grows among legal aid recipients, these individuals have encouraged others to seek services to address long-standing legal problems.

NCSC is present in Bangladesh as implementing partner of USAID for the Justice for All Program, a five-year initiative that aims to improve legal aid, strengthen judicial governance, and expand legal literacy in Bangladesh. For more information on the JFA Program, please visit www.justice-bd.org.