Strengthening Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment for People living with HIV and Key Populations: Taking the Daytop Model to Scale [China]Published on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 02:26
[Contributed by Andrea Pastorelli, UNDP China] Background: Access to legal-aid services for people living with HIV and most vulnerable populations is central to a more effective response to the HIV epidemic in China. Legal aid plays an important role in guaranteeing protection from discrimination, getting redress for rights violations and supporting access to HIV prevention and treatment services. Yet, the enforcement of even the most basic human rights for people living with HIV in China is difficult because of high levels of stigma, a serious shortage of legal aid services and concerns about the possible disclosure of people’s identity during legal proceedings. A recent UNAIDS study  revealed that only 30% of HIV discrimination cases have judicial follow-up, with many potential clients being afraid of taking any legal action.
The Chinese HIV epidemic disproportionally affects key populations, including sex workers, people who use drugs (PWUD), men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people. Stigma and discrimination, violations of human rights and poor access to HIV services for these populations are the main structural contributors to the growing epidemic. Evidence suggests that there is a significant relationship between an enabling legal environment and the reduction of HIV infections in China. The inability to effectively protect these populations from discrimination and marginalization is not only a threat to human dignity, but also a hurdle to an appropriate public health response to HIV.
The coverage and quality of government legal aid services provided to PLHIV and key populations is still extremely weak. In the few cases where government centres provide legal aid to a person living with HIV, a lawyer working at a national legal-aid agency or from a private law firm is randomly chosen to provide the legal support. These lawyers, however, lack expertise in HIV-related cases and legislation and are often the first to discriminate or stigmatize their client. Additionally, there is no financial incentive for lawyers to take up an HIV-related case, as they are not part of the types of legal-aid cases that qualify for government subsidies.
In the last few years, in addition to government legal aid centers, a growing number of civil society organizations have started providing legal aid services to marginalized groups, starting first with migrant workers and more recently expanding to PLHIV and key populations. Legal services provided by these organizations are often more easily accessible to the most vulnerable, as the criteria for access of these services are more flexible.
Most importantly, in the case of criminalized groups such as sex workers and injecting drug users, these organizations provide a safe space for service uptake. However, a recent mapping shows that the legal aid needs of PLHIV are far from being met, with only 8-10 HIV sensitive legal aid centers/organizations across the country. As many development partners have left China or closed down their longstanding HIV programmes, in the last three years the financial and technical support for these organizations has diminished drastically and their service reach and impact with it.
Past assistance and lessons learned:
Since 2012 UNDP China has been supporting Daytop Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitaion Centre to scale-up legal-aid services for PLHIV and key populations in Yunnan, the province with the highest rate of HIV infections in China. UNDP has supported Daytop in strengthening its own capacity as an independent legal aid centre as well as in establishing partnerships with key stakeholders such as the local lawyers association and local university legal aid clinic.
Thanks to two peer counselors and one full-time lawyer the organization now provides legal consultations through a hotline as well as face-to-face and in two years has dealt with more than 300 legal cases, the majority of which were settled out of court. Daytop also established five outreach and mobile consultation sites, which have reached more than 1,000 people with information on HIV, discrimination and basic rights under Chinese and international law. Finally, as part of their outreach activities, Daytop provided HIV and rights training to approximately 50 local lawyers and 150 law students of the local university.
In December 2013, UNDP hosted a national consultation to take stock of the lessons learned from the two-year programme and identifying new priorities for action in taking this work to scale. The consultation highlighted that:
- The ‘Daytop model’ shows that community-based organizations can play a key role in strengthening access to justice for the most marginalized. Community organizations reach populations that others cannot reach and achieve more than just HIV outcomes, with impacts on broader health and social justice issues.
- Chinese legal service providers lack a coherent set of shared principles and objectives and a plan to achieve them together. Networking between legal service providers is weak and largely informal and more support is needed on training, lessons sharing, capacity building and advocacy targeted at different levels of government.
- Long-term sustainability is a major concern as historical funding from international partners has diminished dramatically. Without commitment from the central or provincial governments service expansion will remain limited. In this context coordination and cooperation amongst different organizations is central. Leveraging the potential of the private sector should be considered.
- Legal aid service providers are not active in technical assistance to law-makers/government officials. This suggests that HIV-related legal practitioners have yet to be recognized as real partners in the national AIDS response.
In 2014, UNDP aims to expand Daytop’s impact in Yunnan Province while taking to scale nationally some of the successful elements of the Daytop community model. UNDP aims to leverage new partnerships with the National Legal Aid Centre (NLAC) of the Ministry of Justice to institutionalize some of the HIV-sensitive legal-aid work within already existing government programmes. UNDP’s work will be twofold:
1. In Yunnan Province, working in partnership with the National and Provincial Legal Aid Centres (NLAC and PLAC):
- Continue to support Daytop to provide legal aid services to PLHIV with an increased focus on key populations. In particular, increase the outreach within communities of sex workers and LGBT people and establish key partnerships with organizations working with these populations. Daytop will partner with five community organizations in Yunnan to share resources and strengthen overall service outreach.
- Increase ‘know your rights’ training activities in the community, expanding the focus of the trainings beyond HIV to broader issues related to sex work, sexual minorities and drug use and the law.
- Expand sensitization and training programmes for lawyers and law students as well as cover new key groups, in particular local PLAC staff and lawyers, law enforcement officers, the judiciary, government officials, local AIDS services organizations and healthcare professionals. Create basic training materials that emphasize a rights-based approach around issues related to HIV and key populations in China.
- Provide a platform for experience sharing, targeted training and capacity building as well as community mobilization in the area of access to justice for marginalized groups.
- Improve cooperation and coordination of service-providers and key stakeholders like PLHIV and key populations’ organizations, university legal aid centres, NLAC/PLACs and international organizations. Daytop will act as the national coordinator for this network, supported by a national United Nations Volunteer based in its legal aid center in Kunming.
- Strengthen advocacy, develop consensus on shared goals and invest in better relations with government, media, academia and the community. Strive for a litigation “breakthrough”.
- Ensure long-term sustainability by advocating with the government for a more “open” legal environment and the inclusion of legal services in the next five-year National Action Plan for HIV/AIDS. Strengthen training and development of volunteers and the integration of HIV training into legal school curricula.
- Develop new networks by agreeing on shared objectives for legal service providers, and by making better use of other legal resources e.g. university legal aid centres. Enhance legitimacy and public recognition of legal service providers by engaging in dialogue with the State Council AIDS Working Committee Office (SCAWCO). UNDP, building on its current work on HIV-sensitive law reform at the national level, proposes to utilize platforms such as the Red Ribbon Forum to advance this agenda.
- Strengthen networking and professional development among legal service providers through regular meetings and support for networking on issues such as training techniques, mentoring, case-study documentation. To ensure continuity, legal service providers should aim for at least one meeting every year.
- Institutionalize HIV issues within existing government legal-aid programmes. Working in partnership with the National Legal Aid Centre UNDP aims to foster new partnerships between social organizations and different levels of government to strengthen the quality of services and ensure their long-term sustainability, especially at the provincial level. The network will be able to advocate for government purchasing of services from social organizations in the legal-aid field as well as for the expansion of HIV-sensitive government legal aid programmes in the provinces most affected by HIV.
 ‘Strengthening the response of legal aid service providers to HIV/AIDS in China’, 2011, UNAIDS.
 UNDP China has included Yunnan in a regional project on sex workers capacity building to start in May 2014. One sex worker organization will be selected to receive funding and key legal and management capacity development activities. This organization will be supported to build the capacity of other organizations in Yunnan on issues around sex work and the law. Daytop will be expected to work in partnership with this organization.
Strengthening Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment for People living with HIV and Key Populations – (Daytop Project) (UNDP China)