On May 29 2019, the ICJ facilitated a workshop with a number of justice sector officials and stakeholders who are active in the implementation of the Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence Act (SODVA).
Building on previous engagements in 2018 and 2019, the participants decided on a clear plan of action for further coordination towards the eradication of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in Eswatini.
Participants in the meeting included representatives from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the police, correctional services, the judiciary and the Medical and Dental Association of Eswatini.
The meeting, was opened by ICJ Commissioner and Principal Judge of the High Court of Eswatini, Justice Qinisile Mabuza.
“For too many years, the clamour for this law has been loud; now that we have it, we have to interrogate how efficiently we are using it and check for the gaps that we need to address. Its implementation is in our hands, and we cannot allow ourselves to fail those that need our protection; we cannot fall foul of failing in our duty,” said Judge Mabuza.
A draft report, commissioned by the ICJ, was presented by Nonhlanhla Dlamini, the Director of Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA).
The report, provided participants with a contextual analysis of challenges faced by survivors of SGBV in accessing the justice system in Eswatini.
ICJ Legal Adviser Timothy Fish Hodgson discussed key provisions of the SODV Act and the need for their interpretation and application consistently with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
SWAGAA’s draft report revealed that despite the enactment of the SODV Act significant barriers to access to justice for survivors of SGBV remain.
- Underreporting of SGBV;
- Stereotyping and discrimination faced by survivors when reporting;
- Partial application of SODV Act due to lack of knowledge on the part of key justice sector actors;
- Under-resourcing, lack of infrastructure and services presupposed by SODV Act which prevents full implementation;
- Continued stereotype-driven assumptions made by courts despite the outlawing of such approaches in the SODV Act;
- Lack of due diligence in the collection of medical evidence;
- A perception on the part of survivors that perpetrators are better taken care of in the prosecution process than survivors; and
- A growing and inaccurate perception of the SODV Act and its purposes, which has been facilitated by misleading media reports.
Participants made practical recommendations of how challenges could be addressed in their particular environments. Stressing the need to ensure continued collaboration and momentum in the implementation of the SODV Act, ICJ Africa Director Arnold Tsunga observed that: “Whether this process actually builds towards better protection from SGBV for the marginalized in Eswatini and the SODV Act’s impact is dependent on how participants in this platform and other officials are able to adopt practical measures and implement them effectively.”