Magistrate Lara Esteve, IAWJ member, was Interviewed on Spain’s Gender Based Violence Courts

Spain | IAWJ and Spanish Association of Women Judges member, Magistrate Lara Esteve, was interviewed for Diario16 about the status and challenges of gender based violence courts and complaints in her country.

Gender based violence courts are overwhelmed with complaints. Magistrate Esteve explains that these courts must face real human drama where an aggressor could be the person the victim loved the most. These cases are complex, she elaborates, it is hard to discern the interest of a woman that has been assaulted by a partner, or former partner, and/or that has children, whose level of immediate danger must be evaluated since children are considered direct victims of gender based violence. Moreover, decisions on these cases must be made within 72 hours.

“Each proceeding is a particular drama which usually involves many members of the family, which requires the contribution of numerous judicial, assistance, administrative or police resources.”

Recognizing this complexity raises the need for specialized courts that handle gender based violence exclusively. Magistrate Esteve claims that, “this way, gender based violence courts could focus on the knowledge of crimes of this nature, being able to address the procedures exclusively and in a specialized manner.”

There is also a

“need to modify and expand the concept of gender based violence, according to the content of the Istanbul Convention, … which implies recognizing that gender based violence is not only what is traditionally known as violence (violence exercised by a man towards the woman who is or has been a partner or spouse) … , gender based violence is also any violence directed against a woman because she is female or if it is a crime that disproportionately affects women, such as abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, forced marriages, or genital mutilation.”

A court can only be expected to be familiarized with all international conventions subscribed by their countries on this matter if they are allowed to specialize and exclusively cater to these types of crimes.

In order for Spain to be able to provide an optimum level of justice in the area of gender based violence, Magistrate Esteve identifies three kinds of problems to be fixed: structural (because the justice system was created in the 19th century), organizational (because courts are organized according to a law from 1988) and numerical (because courts are divided according to obsolete parameters).

“A society that wants to eliminate gender based violence needs a reinforcement of the judicial system to guarantee a quick and effective response against this issue. But unless we address it at the previous stages, we will not be able to reduce or eliminate the problem. I think we should go to the source of the problem: the unequal education of boys and girls.”

So, how can Spain do to fix this issue?

“Adapt state legislation to international commitments, such as the Istanbul Convention (ratified … in August 2014); broaden the concept of gender based violence to any type of violence against women for the fact of being female or crimes that disproportionately affect women; introduce a gender perspective in judicial decisions; train judicial actors in this matter; protect children as direct victims.” These are just a few suggestions from Magistrate Esteve.

Read the full interview in Spanish here.