The Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic trains students to be strategic, reflective, and creative social justice advocates by immersing them in human rights practice through professional-level projects around the world. Since its founding in 2007, the Clinic has worked on over 30 projects in partnership with 20 grassroots NGOs in Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Turkey, the United States, and Zimbabwe that have focused on the sexual health and rights of marginalized populations as well as access to justice. Students gain invaluable human rights lawyering experience by employing a range of advocacy methods, including legal and policy analysis, fact finding and report writing, public interest litigation, submissions before human rights bodies, and direct legal assistance.
The innovative global social justice work of the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic has been honored with national, citywide, and university awards from the National Law Journal, the Urban Justice Center’s Police Reform Organizing Project, and Fordham Law School public interest students.
Clinic Director, Professor Chi Mgbako, discusses the Clinic’s work and goals [VIDEO].
Examples of projects include:
Sexual Health and Rights:
South Africa: Sex Workers’ Rights (in partnership with Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce): Assisted sex worker-led national campaign to decriminalize sex work in South Africa in order to uphold human and constitutional rights of South African sex workers. Drafted three policy reports submitted to South African parliament on behalf of decriminalization campaign.
Malawi: LGBT Rights and Sex Workers’ Rights (in partnership with Center for Development of People): International and comparative constitutional law research for public interest lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of forced HIV testing of sex workers and anti-homosexuality laws.
India: Sex Workers’ Rights (in partnership with SANGRAM/VAMP): Policy document crafting alternative guidelines for HIV/AIDS interventions targeting sex workers rooted in rights-based and justice-based approach and based on research and on-site interviews with HIV/AIDS peer educators and outreach workers and VAMP female, male, and transgender sex workers in Sangli, India.
Sierra Leone: Female Genital Cutting (in partnership with Centre for Safe Motherhood Youth and Child Outreach): Human rights anti-FGC workshops in seven schools in northern Sierra Leone with thousands of students participating.
United States/Ethiopia: Foreign Policy and Access to Safe Abortions in Ethiopia (in partnership with Addis Ababa Law School): Report on effect of U.S. foreign policy (specifically Global Gag Rule and Helms Amendment) on Ethiopian women’s access to safe abortion services since liberalization of Ethiopia’s abortion law in 2005 and repeal of Global Gag Rule in 2009, based on interviews in Ethiopia and semester-long research conducted by Fordham Law School and Ethiopian students.
Lebanon: Transgender Rights (in partnership with Helem): Needs assessment report for Helem outlining employment discrimination faced by Lebanese transgender community based on fieldwork in Beirut.
Malawi: Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (in partnership with Coalition of Women Living with HIV/AIDS): Human rights workshops for 200 HIV-positive Malawian women in four towns/cities in Malawi. Workshop topics included reproductive rights, HIV treatment and legal literacy, stigma and discrimination, and advocacy methods.
Zimbabwe: Sex Workers’ Rights (in partnership with Sexual Rights Centre): Policy paper on decriminalization of sex work in Zimbabwe. Comparative memo on models of sex worker legal empowerment.
United States: South Dakota Native American Women’s Reproductive Health (in partnership with ACLU of South Dakota): On-site surveys assessing level of reproductive healthcare being provided to American Indian women through government-run Indian Health Services in South Dakota based on interviews conducted on Lakota reservations in South Dakota.
South Africa: LGBT Refugee Rights (in partnership with PASSOP): Report documenting employment and housing discrimination against LGBT refugees in South Africa.
United States: Critiquing “End Demand” Policies (in partnership with Sex Workers Project): Co-drafted letter to Association of Attorneys General critiquing “end demand” approaches to prostitution. Memo on “end-demand” influenced legislation/policies in select states.
Access to Justice:
United States: New York City Police Abuse of Vulnerable Communities (in partnership with Police Reform Organizing Project): Policy report on NYPD abuse and harassment of black and Latino communities, Muslim-American communities, sex workers, LGBT youth of color, street vendors, and homeless people.
Malawi: Mobile Legal Aid Clinics (in partnership with Center for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance): Conducted mobile legal aid clinics in three villages in rural Malawi. Provided individuals in 110 cases with legal assistance on witchcraft accusations, property grabbing, domestic violence, and child maintenance cases.
Malawi: Prisoners’ Rights – Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (in partnership with Center for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance): Submissions of individual claims on behalf of Malawian prisoners to Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights based on interviews with Malawi prisoners
United States: New York City Protest and Assembly Rights Project – Occupy Wall Street: Report cataloguing widespread rights violations by New York City Police Department against Occupy Wall Street protestors.
Malawi: Prisoners’ Rights – Anti-Torture (in partnership with Center for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance): Anti-torture training for Malawian police officers and prison officials and prisoners’ rights training for paralegals.
Liberia: Access to Justice (in partnership with Carter Center and Justice and Peace Commission): 200-page handbook to assist Carter Center and JPC in improving the design of their community-based paralegal program based on fieldwork in Liberia.
Malawi: Prisoners’ Rights – Right to Trial (in partnership with Center for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance): International and comparative constitutional law research for public interest lawsuit on right to trial within a reasonable time.
Malawi: Access to Justice (in partnership with Center for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance): handbook to assist CHREAA in improving the design of their community-based paralegal program based on fieldwork in Malawi.