More strategies needed to tackle Gender Based Violence
There is need to come up with strategies that go beyond legislative and policy reforms in order to combat Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the country.
Speaking in Nairobi at the Regional Conference for Women Justice Actors, Chief Justice David Maraga observed that GBV persists in Kenya despite the strict and punitive legislation.
He cited the strict punishments for offences committed under the Sexual Offences Act 2006, the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011, the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act 2015 and the Children Act 2001, saying that despite these provisions, the challenge of GBV still persists in Kenya.
“One can only come to a conclusion that we clearly need strategies that go beyond legislative and policy reforms,” Justice Maraga explained.
The CJ observed that currently a majority of GBV offences go unreported in part because of a non-conducive justice system or heavy stigma and harmful norms and attitudes that lead to silence of their victims.
He said the sharing of lessons, both negative and positive, has a great potential to enrich strategies employed to combat GBV.
“I am therefore happy to note that this conference has brought a rich diversity of players from across the globe in order to facilitate the sharing of lessons and strategies,” the CJ said.
The President of KWJA Justice Hannah Okwengu explained that women judges are appalled and distraught at the number of cases involving GBV that they we have to deal with every day adding that the society’s tolerance to abuse of women and children must be deplored.
She said that as women justice actors they believe that all actors and duty bearers in dealing with GBV cases including the community leaders must be held to account and that the rights of women and children must be protected.
“We owe this to nine year old Maribel Kaplong a daughter to one of our own, who was defiled and killed. We owe this to many other victims and survivors of gender based violence. We owe this to ourselves as women. Indeed even as women judges we are not immune to GBV.” Justice Okwengu said.
She added. “We are looking for effective ways in addressing the systemic impunity that facilitates violence against women and children.”
Participants who included representatives of associations of women judges, magistrates and prosecutors from Kenya, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Somalia and Zambia shared experiences from their various regions on the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of GBV cases. Some of the topics shared are: the status of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in the context of GBV in the African Continent and the pathways, models and effective strategies for overcoming barriers to the resolution of GBV cases.
Women judges and magistrates from the East Africa and other parts of Africa are meeting in Nairobi for a two-day regional conference to discuss proper adjudication of Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases in the region.
The conference whose theme is: “Strengthening the Role and Contribution of Women Justice Actors in the Adjudication of GBV cases,” is also intended to mark the KWJA Silver Jubilee anniversary since its inception in 1993. The name, KWJA has since then changed to, “International Association of Women Judges – Kenya Chapter.”
The conference brings together representatives of associations of women judges, magistrates and prosecutors from Kenya, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Somalia and Zambia to engage each other and share experiences aimed at ensuring improved processes that allow for the proper adjudication of GBV cases. Representatives from the investigation services as well as those from leading civil society focused on Gender issues and Academics will also be participating in the conference.
The forum seeks to strengthen delivery of justice for marginalized groups in the determination of GBV matters through improved engagement between judicial actors. Further, it seeks to provide a platform of engagement to consider regional and international best practice in handling GBV cases.
The meeting is necessitated by the need, for Judiciaries, through their associations of Women Judges, to realise the critical role they occupy as final arbiters in matters of GBV. It is also necessary to trigger engagement across the justice chain to ensure that the rights of the vulnerable, particularly women and children are protected, and that there is effective and efficient resolution of GBV cases.
The conference provides an opportunity to create a platform for engagement for women justice actors on issues common to them and to assuage the absence of specific guidance currently available to justice sector actors tasked with adjudication of offences of GBV against women and girls in the region.
During the conference, participants will unpack the practical challenges encountered through the justice chain in matters related to GBV and propose mitigatory measures to enhance the ability of women, children and vulnerable groups to access justice in an efficient, transparent and accountable manner. Further, they will be expected to identify and highlight best practices that Judiciaries can implement within the respective domestic legal frameworks to ensure improved protection in GBV matters and provide justice sector actors with specific guidance to enhance the effectiveness of adjudication of GBV offences in the region.
Additionally, the participants will seek to bridge the gap between law and practice as a definitive prevention strategy geared towards the increase of gender equality and the transformation of gender norms and establish a culture of partnership in the administration of justice within and across regional judicial sector actors.
The conference intends to come up with a way forward on how to assist victim/survivors of GBV offences by:
§ Adopting a regional partnership framework for women judges and magistrates to facilitate crossborder sharing of best practices and lessons for replication and fostering collaborations;
§ Initiating conversations that seek to influence the attitudes and practices across the entire value-chain of justice delivery to foster greater synergy, mutual support, and collaboration, and chart the way forward, and;
§ Focusing on actions judges can take within the existing respective regional legal frameworks to assist women victim/survivors of GBV in obtaining effective access to justice, redress and reparations for these crimes.