Incidents of violence against women are widespread, yet only a small portion of these reach the courtroom. Community members often cite an inhospitable justice system, combined with the fear of social stigma, as reasons why victims and their family do not use the courts.
For those cases that do reach the justice system, some collapse within the judicial process. IAWJ members are mobilizing to shift this paradigm through prevention, education and improved response throughout the justice chain.
IAWJ Takes On Gender-Based Violence
The Dominican Republic has made important progress in addressing issues of Gender-based Violence (GBV), through the work of a Gender Commission within the Supreme Court, special prosecutorial units, protocols for dealing with victims, and progressive new laws. Due to social pressures and economic dependence, women and girls are often deterred from filing complaints, and others report being re-victimized or unsupported by the process, leading them to drop their cases.
IAWJ, the National Judicial School, and the Gender Commission in the DR are partnering to improve the judicial handling of cases. Through judicial surveys and forums across five jurisdictions, the program identified how GBV cases enter the system, and the economic and geographical challenges encountered by those most vulnerable. These efforts culminated in the design of a certified training course for sitting judges. IAWJ members from Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica and the U.S. are sharing their models and lessons for success with their DR judicial colleagues.
Despite passage of statutes protecting the rights of women and girls in Malawi, there has been limited progress in ensuring remedies for violence, land grabs and inheritance inequities. The fact is, women in this country have difficulty accessing the courts. Using information from focus groups conducted throughout Malawi, IAWJ and the Women Judges Association of Malawi (WOJAM) cultivated a targeted response: convening community meetings between judges and marginalized groups to educate citizens and chiefs on rights and court procedures.
Through this process, we trained over 105 male and female magistrates throughout Malawi on effective application of new pro-rights laws, and on ways to reduce the influence of gender and cultural norms in their judgments. WOJAM and local NGO partners led 70 public education forums in 27 districts, distributing pamphlets, performing skits, and using other creative means to address local community needs.
Hope in the Next Generation
Through programs like these, IAWJ members are serving as role models for young people around the world:
- Argentina: Educational programs in schools aimed at reducing teen bullying
- Ghana and Cameroon: Avoidance and protection measures related to sexual and other predatory acts
- Nepal: Empowering high school girls and boys on rape prevention
- United States: Partnering with college students and NGOs to raise awareness on sexual assaults on college campuses