Lawyering on the Margins

Since 2011, Open Society Foundations has sponsored Lawyering on the Margins (LOTM), a unique global gathering of lawyers working with marginalized groups: people who use drugs, sex workers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people. 

Rights not rescue

The meeting brings together lawyers from a wide range of countries who are working towards social change and who believe that the law is an important means to achieving it. It allows those of us attending to learn from each other and to share successes, challenges, strategies, and aspirations in our struggles to help our clients access justice. It also allows us to strategize to support each other’s future work and grow this vibrant movement of public interest lawyers.

In 2014, Pivot Legal Society had the good fortune to assist Open Society Foundations to hold LOTM in Vancouver. This year’s fourth LOTM meeting is in Skopje, Macedonia from August 24 to 27, and will be co-hosted by Health Options Project – Skopje, and the Coalition “Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities.” I’ll be attending on behalf of Pivot. Reading accounts from previous years, I’m both excited and slightly intimidated to meet this inspiring group. Many of the lawyers who come together for LOTM are working in extraordinarily constrained circumstances, advocating for clients experiencing extreme forms of violence and systemic discrimination because of legal systems and laws in political regimes that are less democratic than Canada’s. Often, they themselves are also threatened. They bring a rare blend of passion and ingenuity to their practice. I have also been told that they put on a great party.

I leave for Skopje on Saturday, August 22, and will arrive late Sunday night, then head straight into three days of seminars, presentations, and site visits to local social justice organizations. I’m looking forward to co-facilitating a session with Macedonia’s Natasa Boskova of Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities on misconceptions about sex work and presenting on Pivot’s role in the fight for decriminalization of sex work in Canada.

I can’t wait to learn what other participants from across Africa, Europe, Asia, and Latin America have to say about their experiences and the tools they are using to fight for greater recognition of human rights for all. Watch this spot for more to come on my return!