Legal Action for Women (LAW) is a grassroots anti-sexist, anti-racist, trans inclusive legal service for all women based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in London, England and San Francisco, USA. Set up in 1982, by the English Collective of Prostitutes initially to defend sex workers from police illegality and racism, LAW provides free advice and support to low-income women and their families who have least access to justice because of discrimination on grounds of sex, race, class, disability, transphobia, income, sexual preference, occupation, etc.
LAW is run entirely by unwaged volunteers and is unique in combining access to a network of sympathetic lawyers, with the experience of lay workers from similar backgrounds to the women who use its services. We work with the mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and other relatives and friends who are fighting for justice for their loved ones.
LAW’s insistence that no case is “hopeless” and that something can always be done is a hallmark of our approach and has won LAW recognition from lawyers, legal workers, civil rights and community organisations. This approach has also set important precedents. For example, LAW, working with the English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape, assisted two sex workers to initiate and win the first private prosecution for rape in this country.
What we do
LAW provides advice and support on legal issues; carries out research and holds conferences, workshops and discussions on about women’s legal rights, provides training to new volunteers on a wide range of legal issues including welfare benefits, child custody, compensation, immigration and asylum, sexism, racism and other discrimination, rape and domestic violence.
LAW facilitates collective self-help, knowing that most justice work is firstly in the hands of grassroots people who acquire expertise and experience in the course of defending their own rights and those of their loved ones. LAW’s work shows how self-help can be a tool for protecting rights, achieving justice, challenging abuses of power and promoting reform by setting and publicising precedents that are useful and encouraging to others. As cuts to advice services and legal aid, particularly at a time of rapid legislative change, make it harder to get the right advice and adequate representation, self-help becomes more urgent.
LAW co-ordinates Support Not Separation, a coalition to end the unwarranted and damaging separation of children from their mother or other primary carer. LAW administers an appeal at Christmas on behalf of the All African Women’s Group for destitute women and children and is part of Global Women Against Deportations, a coalition of anti-deportation groups at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. LAW has published or collaborated in the publication of books and rights’ guides including: “For Asylum Seekers and their Supporters – A Self-help Guide Against Detention and Deportation”; Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers – a dossier on the unjust separation of children from their mothers; Chronology of Injustice: The case for Winston Silcott’s conviction to be overturned; The Crown Prosecution Service and the Crime of Rape as well as providing briefings on a range of proposed legislation.