Our member organisation HOPS published the Research report: Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia.
This research represents the first effort to assess the legal needs and paths to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia. It was conducted at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 using a mixed-methods research approach. The quantitative phase included 250 respondents chosen through stratified random sampling, out of which 169 inject/injected drugs, and 107 are/were engaged in sex work over the last three and a half years. The qualitative research phase, on the other hand, was comprised of focus group discussions with 69 respondents from both communities, as well as individual or group interviews with 7 representatives from competent institutions.
The research results showed that people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia experience ten times more non-trivial justiciable problems in comparison to the general population in the country. In addition, low level of legal literacy, lack of trust in institutions and systemic discrimination, among other factors, prevent citizens from these communities to seek protection of their rights and delivery of justice through institutional mechanisms. Such circumstances confirm the communities’ high vulnerability and underline the need for advancement of their access to information, legal advice and protection.
The findings pinpoint the necessity to educate people who inject drugs and sex workers on existing institutional mechanisms for protection of rights and delivery of justice, and motivate them to take actions towards legal resolution. Since citizens from these groups trust civil society organizations the most, CSOs are the first instance where they seek free legal advice and aid. Hence, services offered to these communities by civil society organizations need to be developed further, while also advancing the cooperation between the organizations and the competent institutions, including introduction of functional referral mechanisms.
Recommendations of the report also include that overcoming prejudices against people who inject drugs and sex workers in institutions responsible for ensuring the legal order, such as the police, Legal Needs and Access to Justice for People Who Inject Drugs and Sex Workers in Macedonia prosecutors, courts and prisons is crucial. This could be achieved with temporary measures, such as trainings, field and study visits, but also through more sustainable systemic changes in the process of professional training of employees in the aforementioned institutions. Similar measures could be useful for health and social workers