Last month, the world was captivated by Egypt, and rightly so (and to an extant it still is). In less then two weeks a leaderless youth-driven revolution brought the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak to its knees. I will not recount all the facts as they are widely known (hopefully), but will direct you to this fantastic article for a recap.
The situation in Egypt is changing everyday. Right now, there seems to be a focus on how the country should transition from an oppressive dictatorship to a democratic and/or constitutional state. For this reason, many people seem to be asking where the lawyers are and how they can assist in Egypt’s transition.
Whatever involvement lawyers will have in this process, I think it is important that RJ lawyers are a part of it. Although “transitioning from an autocratic political system to a democratic one” may not be a typical RJ legal issue (at least in Western notions of RJ), RJ lawyers can (and should) still advocate on issues like this one. If RJ lawyers, or lawyers with an RJ lens are part of this process, they can hopefully work to ensure that in any new political system the reproductive and sexual rights of women (and of all people) in Egypt are maintained and strengthened. The women of Egypt are bravely working to ensure their voices are an integral part of Egypt’s political transition despite being excluded from the constitutional committee and being met with violent resistance.
I’m writing this not only because I think lawyers can play a part in implementing a robust electoral system by which Egyptians choose their own leaders and enjoy full civil, political, and human rights, but also to highlight the need for RJ lawyers to work in areas beyond those we have deemed “RJ-only areas of law.”
I believe RJ lawyers should focus more on non-traditional RJ areas of law including international trade policy, macro economic policy, economic development, etc., and should learn more from lawyers already working in these areas (like lawyers doing international sexual and reproductive health and rights work). This is important because trade and economic policies have huge impacts on the lives and the health of women (and all peoples) globally, yet RJ-lawyers in training (from my experience) are not taught about what an RJ-oriented/influenced macroeconomic policy would look like, or to think about what RJ-centric international trade policies would look like. Nor are we taught what “an RJ influenced transition from dictatorship to democracy” could or should look like.
I hope lawyers, including RJ lawyers, can do whatever work is needed to bring about a speedy transition of power in Egypt or otherwise inform their practice with these perspectives. I also hope law students everywhere, and from all areas of study/focus (including RJ focused students) host and plan panels, teach-ins, and roundtables to discuss legal issues in Egypt and how lawyers can be of use. This I believe would be a useful way for law students to support the people of Egypt and others poised to launch similar challenges to dictatorships around the world.