Africa: Measures needed to enable women’s access to justice for gender based violence

On 10-11 December, the ICJ gathered leading jurists and human rights defenders in Harare, Zimbabwe to discuss measures needed to implement legal reform and change attitudes to eliminate sexual and gender based violence.

For International Human Rights Day (10 December), the ICJ organized high level panel discussions, chaired by ICJ Commissioner Justice Qinisile Mabuza.

Justice Mabuza, who is also a judge for the High Court of Swaziland and for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Court of Justice, set the tone for the discussions that followed in setting out the extent of the problem of sexual and gender based violence not only within Africa but also on a global scale.

One panel consisted of Judge Lillian Tiabtemwa-Ekrikubinza, Supreme Court Judge of Uganda; Magistrate Asha Ramlal of South Africa; Judge Lavender Makoni, High Court Judge of Zimbabwe; and Magistrate Polo Banyane from Lesotho.

This panel provided a judicial perspective from magistrates and judges from across the region, sharing their experiences and common problems encountered in tackling sexual and gender based violence in their jurisdictions.

The judges spoke about the need to adopt a gender analysis in judicial decision-making and to be conscious of the way in which pervasive gender stereotypes can influence even seemingly gender neutral decisions.

They also spoke of the practicalities in implementing domestic violence and sexual offences legislation as well as the challenges involved when this legislation does not exist.

Welekazi Stifole from Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre; Kelvin Hazangwi from Padare (Men’s Forum on Gender) and Lisa Gormley, ICJ Consultant on women’s rights participated in a second panel.

The participants shared their perspectives and insights concerning reviewing legislation, identifying problems with evidence gathering, analyzing the international and regional frameworks covering gender based violence and in working with perpetrators and within communities to change cultural attitudes.

The second day of the gathering featured a consultative meeting on the ICJ’s forthcoming Practitioner’s Guide on Women’s Access to Justice for Gender-Based Violence.

ICJ expert consultant Lisa Gormley presented the Guide and participants shared their experiences in relation to its content, as well as developing strategies for its future implementation.

Representatives of civil society, judges, lawyers and law students participated in both events, contributing to a broader understanding of sexual and gender based violence issues and strengthening national and international networks of defenders of women’s rights.


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