The UK Government is currently debating the Legal Aid Bill, which seeks, amongst other things, to remove legal aid from immigration and some asylum-support cases. This Bill is bad news for a number of different people, but immigration and women’s rights groups have particular concerns about the way this will affect women. An example is the proposal to remove legal aid from women whose visa is linked to that of their partner (who has indefinite leave to remain), but who is being subjected to domestic violence by that partner, and so wishes to end the relationship. A woman in such a situation can apply for indefinite leave to remain under the domestic violence rule. But immigration law is complex and women in abusive relationships are often traumatised. Legal advice is essential in such cases, otherwise there is a real risk that women will be trapped in abusive relationships for fear of jeopardising their immigration status. A small victory has been won by rights groups, as the Government has realised this, and decided to allow legal aid in such cases. You can read more here.
Ruth Chang has posted at What We’re Doing About What It’s Like, describing Rutgers’s efforts to improve things for women. One of the things she describes is an extremely detailed and impressive survey that they give to their own grad students. What especially impressed me is this: When I was a grad student myself, I had a hard time properly perceiving and understanding the ways that the climate in my department were in fact bad. I didn’t really know there was any other way for things to be. If I’d been asked a general question I would have said “everything’s great”. But this survey, it seems to me, asks the sorts of questions that would have let people see from my answers that there was in fact a problem, even if I didn’t see that myself. (My only quibble with it is a section where students are asked whether they think there’s a perceived hierarchy amongst students in terms of ability, and where they think they fall in that hierarchy. I think answering that question would have made me even more desperately insecure.) I urge you all to have a look at the survey, and consider adopting something like it yourselves.