University of Helsinki – Equal before the law

University of Helsinki students of law are involved in a project to establish legal aid offices in Central Asia for women, the young, and people with disabilities.

11-12-2012 — / — Funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and implemented by the Eurasia Foundation, the Equal Before the Law programme seeks to provide vulnerable groups in Central Asia with better access to legal services.

The University of Helsinki contributes to the programme by supporting local universities’ departments of law in teaching-related matters and in the establishment of legal aid offices.

“The offices deal with family problems, divorce issues and family violence. The clientele also include young people who have run into trouble with the law,” says Magdalena Kmak of the Erik Castrén Institute, who represents the University in the programme. “We want to improve law students’ general understanding of the problems and rights of disadvantaged people. The goal is to influence society through these future lawyers,” she adds.

Law students work as interns in legal aid offices.

“I spoke with local students during my visit in Central Asia in March. They were extremely enthusiastic and had many good questions,” says Kmak.

Students also benefit from their internship. In addition to learning about practical legal work, they gain insight into customer relations and interaction.

Finnish students also work as interns in the programme. Last summer, Eeva Tupi took part in an internship in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She was posted at the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia office. Together with Pamela West, another intern, Tupi analysed the legislation of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan from the perspective of disabled people to determine how the countries’ legislation matched the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“The biggest problem is that people with disabilities are not considered legally competent citizens and that their rights are unclear to many. In several places, legislative texts treated disabled people like minors,” Tupi explains.

Equal Before the Law programme »»

Erik Castrén Institute »»

Research database TUHAT: Magdalena Kmak »»

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Text: Heta Muurinen
Photo: 123rf
Translation: Language Services/Language Centre (University of Helsinki)
University of Helsinki, digital communications


Equal before the law

Equal before the law


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