Human Rights and Legal Services 
BRAC introduced the Human Rights and Legal Services (HRLS) program in 1986 when a BRAC study on power relations revealed that social conflicts and tensions in rural areas are mostly linked to land and human rights violations and violence against women. Poor people involved in such conflicts are often denied justice in the village shalish (arbitration). They also suffer severe financial crisis due to resource drains if such conflicts lead to court cases. The HRLS programme is therefore aimed at making BRAC's VO members as well as others in the community aware of their basic rights and works to educate them on rudiments of laws that have direct bearing on their lives.

1.    Human Rights and Legal Education (HRLE): We initiated the HRLE programme with the understanding that increasing legal awareness would help community members protect themselves from illegal, unfair or discriminatory practices. The programme places emphasis on empowering the rural poor though education on human rights and laws. During 2007, 14,123 HRLE classes were held for 324,962 participants

2.    Law Implementation Committees: After completion of each HRLE course, the top three performers (based on their willingness to work for the good of the community, level of capacity building, communication and facilitation skills, etc.) are selected from among the participants of each batch to serve as members of the Law Implementation Committee. These groups work as community watchdogs, often acting as arbitrators in minor conflicts and referring major issues to the relevant authorities.

3.    Capacity Building of Sheboks/Shebikas: BRAC has developed a number of Sheboks/Shebikas (male and female paralegal volunteers) to assist the poor in handling various cases of social injustice and human rights violations occurring outside our operational areas and where no support exists from the government or other NGOs. These volunteers provide support to victims by rescuing them from unsafe situations, referring them to the nearest BRAC office, and arranging immediate medical treatment, counselling and legal support.They also work to ensure the survivor's local protection and social reintegration/ rehabilitation and assist them in finding psychological, financial and livelihood options. They offer advice to the poor in land related matters and assist them in gaining access to government resources.

4.    Local Community Leaders Workshops: We organise workshops at the union level to raise community awareness, generate sensitivity among community members, encourage the participation of local elites, inform the community about the needs of the poorest, and develop strategies for local resource mobilisation to benefit the disadvantaged groups. These workshops are a kind of advocacy forum in which the local elites and influential community leaders are encouraged to participate. A total of 1,249 workshops were organised during 2007 with 21,702 participants.

5.    Human Rights Implementation Committees: Human Rights Implementation Committees are formed following the community leaders workshop with the participation of all attending workshop members. These committees monitor the implementation of laws in their localities. In 2007, 8,772 workshops were organised and attended by 115,783 participants.

6.    Legal Assistance and Legal Aid Clinics: The Legal Aid Clinic service helps our members as well as poor non-members of the community resolve their conflicts through either Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) or the formal legal system. The service provides them with legal advice and assistance in dealing with issues such as dowry, dower and maintenance, polygamy, divorce, hilla marriage (temporary interim marriage), physical torture, family issues, land issues, money related matters, rape, acid throwing, kidnapping, trafficking, and fraud etc. The clinics are held once a week at the local BRAC office where programme organisers record complaints on civil matters and process the complaints for ADR. We have recruited lawyers as regular staff whose responsibilities are to take action on complaints that require court procedures. When arbitration fails,we forward the complaints to selected panel lawyers and they in turn take necessary actions to file a regular case in the local court. Out of a total of 22,531 complaints made, 12,157 have been resolved so far by ADR in 2007. A total of 4,184 cases were filed at court and in 2007, 1,609 judgments were given in favour of our clients. Since the programme started in 1998, BRAC has, together with ASK, been successful in obtaining BDT 21.7 million (USD 3.2 million) monetary compensation for our members

7.    Human Rights Violation Cases: BRAC's Legal Aid Programme also provides support to victims of rape, acid throwing or other chemical burns,women and child trafficking, attempted rape and murder, repression for dowry and other forms of violence. The services provided for the survivors include rescue operations, medical tests and report collection, filing of police reports, ensuring protection for the survivor, family members and witnesses through the provision of shelters, providing social, legal and psychological counselling, conducting fact-finding or investigations, and forwarding cases to the panel lawyers

8.    Capacity Building of Panel Lawyers: BRAC has enrolled a number of lawyers to serve as legal representatives for the poor who provide legal support free of charge. These panel lawyers review cases brought to the HRLS programme, decide on course of action for each case and handle all legal proceedings. We provide technical training to the lawyers to build their capacity and involve them in all consultation meetings.