March 2002Volume 7Number 3

Azerbaijan: Patricia Bronte’s legal reform experience

Patricia Bronte, Jenner & Block partner, recently returned from eleven months in Azerbaijan, one of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Pat served as a Rule of Law Liaison in Azerbaijan for the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative.

As part of her responsibilities, she helped Azeris become familiar with their country's new legal system. She taught seminars to help law students and lawyers. She helped disseminate information on new laws, not only to the general public but to attorneys and judges. She also worked with non-governmental organizations and spoke with activists, students and government officials about womens issues, including domestic violence.

According to Pat, Azerbaijan must learn to deal with womens' issues, particularly domestic violence. Pat believes that the country is similar to the U.S. in the 1950s, i.e., people simply do not talk about such things. She notes a popular Russian proverb that says, " A man who beats his wife loves her."

Women, including attorneys, strive diligently to change the culture. Pat worked with a group called Women's Rights Protective Society and traveled with two activists to a women's rights conference in Moscow. Pat encouraged people to document problems as a first step. She educated women about international treaties on women's rights. Pat believes much work must be done in Azerbaijan regarding women's issues, but also believes the Azer is willing to do what is necessary for positive change.

On a personal note, Pat enjoyed her time and experiences in Azerbaijan--a small country located between Iran and Russia near the Caspian Sea. Its 7.7 million people continue to learn how to manage after ten years of independence from the Soviet Union. Pat is glad to be back, not only to her family, but to her work. If you would like to know more about Pat's experiences, please feel free to call her at 312/923-8357.

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