Lebanon: Criminal justice system inadequately addresses sexual and gender-based violence

Lebanon: Criminal justice system inadequately addresses sexual and gender-based violence

In a memorandum released today, the ICJ published guidance and recommendations aimed at assisting Lebanon’s criminal justice actors in addressing significant gaps in evidentiary rules, practice and procedures undermining the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) crimes in the country.

The 42-page memorandum, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Offences in Lebanon: Principles and Recommended Practices on Evidence (available in English and Arabic), aims to advance accountability and justice for SGBV, and is especially designed for investigators, prosecutors, judges and forensic practitioners.

“Criminal justice actors are indispensable to eradicating harmful practices and curbing entrenched impunity for SGBV in Lebanon,” said Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Rather than buying into false, stereotyped narratives that impugn survivors’ credibility and call into question their sexual history, the criminal justice system must adopt and enforce gender-sensitive, victim-centric evidence-gathering procedures that put the well-being of SGBV survivors at the forefront.”

The memorandum provides criminal justice actors with guidance and recommendations on the identification, gathering, storing, admissibility, exclusion and evaluation of evidence in SGBV cases, as well as on their immediate applicability in practice, pending consolidation and reform of Lebanon’s existing legal framework and procedures for the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of SGBV offences.

“Lebanon’s legal framework fosters and perpetuates a systematic denial of effective legal protection and access to justice for women survivors of SGBV,” said Benarbia. “The justice system must counter harmful gender stereotypes and attitudes rooted in patriarchy, which continue to undermine survivors’ right to effective remedies.”

The memorandum’s release is particularly timely given the escalation of SGBV witnessed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The memorandum builds on previous research undertaken by the ICJ in this area, including Gender-based violence in Lebanon: Inadequate Framework, Ineffective Remedies and Accountability for Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Lebanon: Guidance and Recommendations for Criminal Justice Actors.


Lebanon-GBV-Memorandum-2021-ENG (Memorandum in English)

Lebanon-GBV-Memorandum-2021-ARA (Memorandum in Arabic)

Lebanon-GBV-Web-Story-2021-ARA (Web story in Arabic)

Lebanon-GBV-Web-Story-2021-ENG (Web story in English)


Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org

Asser Khattab, Research and Communications’ Officer, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: asser.khattab(a)icj.org

ICJ/Cordaid Webinar Series addresses the need for equal access to justice for women  where religious and customary laws are in force

ICJ/Cordaid Webinar Series addresses the need for equal access to justice for women  where religious and customary laws are in force

On 21 and 22 October, the ICJ and Cordaid held a webinar series aimed at tackling the challenges of  protecting and promoting women’s human rights and access to justice for women in the context of religious and customary laws in operation around the world.

At its global 2019 Congress in Tunis, the ICJ identified the problem, concluding that: “Worldwide, increasing attacks on the rule of law have intensified longstanding inequalities and compounded intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls and persons from marginalized groups. This has limited their enjoyment of human rights and their effective access to justice. Moreover, in many countries, culture, tradition, or religion are being used to justify laws, policies and practices that discriminate against women and girls.”

In light of the obstacles for women, the ICJ together with Cordaid created this webinar platform for an exchange of views and strategies among human rights defenders, justice sector actors and those from the religious community. Participants came from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Webinar 1 addressed the ways in which custom and religion shape the ability of women to access justice. The meeting also grappled with the perceived clashes between women’s human rights and pathways to justice based on custom and religion.

“Custom and religious preferences are not superior to women’s rights, they operate simultaneously,” said Nazila Ghanea, Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford.

Speakers included Professor Nazila Ghanea, Clara Rita Padilla, a lawyer from the Philippines with experience on women’s sexual and reproductive rights, Josephine Chandiru, Executive Director of Stewardwomen from South Sudan, and Claudine Tsongo, Director of Dynamique des Femmes Juristes. They focused on practical subjects, including the persistence of certain religious and cultural practices which have the potential to negatively affect women’s ability to defend their human rights. The session was moderated by ICJ Africa’s director, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh.

Webinar 2, moderated by ICJ Commissioner and CEDAW Committee Member, Nahla Haidar, discussed obligations under international human rights law and best practice to ensure access to justice in cultural and religious contexts.

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or belief, Professor Ahmed Shaheed explained that “custom and religious law are, in some countries, used as cover to discriminate against women or to stop them from getting justice. These are not issues which are only present in the global south, they are rampant globally.”

Participants discussed practical measures which could be adopted by States, international organizations and civil society, to eliminate practices which exacerbate women’s inequality. In this regard, Shareena Sheriff from Sisters in Islam based in Malaysia, shared her experience on how they successfully embarked on advocacy to eliminate the harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation in her country. She explained how Sisters in Islam worked closely with various stakeholders including community members, religious and justice actors to raise awareness on this issue.

Many speakers endorsed the importance of creating platforms such as the webinar to allow different voices from around the world to contribute their experience so as to learn from one another.


Nokukhanya (Khanyo) Farisè, Legal Adviser (Africa Regional Programme), e: nokukhanya.farise(a)icj.org

Tanveer Jeewa, Communications Officer (Africa Regional Programme), e: tanveer.jeewa(a)icj.org


The first webinar is available here.

The second webinar is available here.


The report on the Tunis Declaration is available here.

Cordaid, Diverse Pathways to Justice for all: Supporting everyday justice providers to achieve SDG16.3, September 2019, available here.


Universal-ICJ The Tunis Declaration-Advocacy-2019-ENG (the Tunis Declaration, in PDF)

Universal-ICJ Congresses-Publications-Reports-2019-ENG (the ICJ Congresses booklet, in PDF)

Namibia: authorities must investigate police abuse of people protesting Gender Based Violence

Namibia: authorities must investigate police abuse of people protesting Gender Based Violence

Today the ICJ condemned the apparent widespread ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest of peaceful demonstrators protesting gender based violence on Saturday 10 October in Windhoek.

The demonstrators were allegedly met with tear gas, and a number of them were subject to serious beatings by police forces.

Some 25 persons, including journalists, were arrested during the demonstrations. They were initially charged with breaching a law forbidding the public gathering of more than 50 people, though the charges were dropped on Monday.

The ICJ is calling for a prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the alleged police abuse, in line with Namibian law and the countries international legal obligations.

Officials responsible should be held accountable.

“Instead of taking seriously the demands made by the protestors and to take steps to ensure that gender based violence is addressed in a meaningful and constructive way, the police themselves appeared to have engaged in violent action against those exercising their rights to peacefully assembly and express their view,” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, ICJ Africa Regional Programme Director. 

The ICJ also called on the authorities to protect the right of individuals in the country to peacefully and protest, rights which are protected under Namibia’s Constitution and international law.

The ICJ said that the Public Gatherings Proclamation Act, requiring prior permission for assemblies of more than 50 people in public spaces, should be repealed or revised, as incompatible with its international legal obligations.

The ICJ has also called on Namibia to address the underlying concerns raised by the protests, notably that during the COVID-19 pandemic, gender-based violence has been exacerbated during lockdown restrictions.

In Namibia, reports of femicide and gender based violence steadily increasing and on average “three rape cases were reported to the Namibian police every day for 18 months.”


The recent #ShutItAllDown and #ShutitAllDownNamibia movements, spontaneously started on social media after the killing of a young woman, Shannon Wasserfall, have led to a series of protests against government’s failure to adequately address the scourge of gender based violence in Namibia.

The protestors, predominantly young women, last week handed over a petition to government which includes a list of 24 demands. raising concerns about the poor State response to gender-based violence in Namibia.

The protestors allege that Namibian police are “negligent and nonchalant” with investigating violent crime committed against women. They are demanding that government do more to protect women against such violence, including by ensuring that survivors of gender-based violence have access to justice.

The rights to freedom of assembly and expression, freedom from ill-treatment, and prohibitions on arbitrary arrest are guaranteed under the international human rights treaties to which Namibia is a party, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture,  as well as the Namibian Constitution.


Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Director of ICJ’s Africa Regional Programme, c: +27845148039, e:  kaajal.keogh(a)icj.org

Nokukhanya Farisè, Legal Adviser, nokukhanya.farise(a)icj.org


Nepal: ICJ co-hosts national judicial dialogue on the elimination of discrimination against women and enhancing women’s access to justice

Nepal: ICJ co-hosts national judicial dialogue on the elimination of discrimination against women and enhancing women’s access to justice

On 15 and 22 August 2020, the ICJ, in collaboration with the National Judicial Academy (NJA) of Nepal, organized the National Judicial Dialogue on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Enhancing Women’s Access to Justice.

Due to the exigencies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the judicial dialogue was conducted through virtual means.

Fifteen trial court judges from Kathmandu Valley participated in this judicial dialogue with judicial experts from other countries.

Judge Amy Alabado Avellano, a Regional Trial Court judge from the Philippines, engaged with the judges on the application of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in their judicial decisions. Roberta Clarke, ICJ’s Executive Committee Chairperson and UN Women’s OIC for UN Women’s East and Southern Africa Regional Office, spoke on the right to access to justice under international human rights law.

The second day featured a discussion on specific barriers that women in Nepal face when they access justice. The judges discussed their own role and measures available to the judiciary as an institution to enhance access to justice for women in Nepal. Hon. Justice Sapana Pradhan Malla from the Supreme Court of Nepal and Dr. Diwakar Bhatta from the National Judicial Academy of Nepal led these discussions.

At the Dialogue Emerlynne Gil, ICJ Senior International Legal Adviser, remarked that “judges have a responsibility to uphold the fairness and integrity of the justice system by ensuring that proceedings are conducted in a fashion that does not subordinate the fact-finding process to myth and stereotype.” Honorable Top Bahadur Magar, the Executive Director of the National Judicial Academy, stressed that, “Trial court judges play a pivotal role in debunking myths and gender stereotypes.”

Highlighting the importance of continuing the work towards eliminating gender discriminatory practices among frontline justice actors, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Emerlynne Gil said. “The COVID-19 pandemic is aggravating existing gender inequalities and women are experiencing more violations of their human rights.”


Laxmi Pokharel, National Legal Advisor, International Commission of Jurists, t: 977 9851047588, e: laxmi.pokharel(a)icj.org

South Africa: authorities must work urgently to curb gender-based violence under lockdown

South Africa: authorities must work urgently to curb gender-based violence under lockdown

As South Africa enters into its second week of a 21-day lockdown, the ICJ calls on  national, provincial and local government authorities to urgently implement measures to prevent sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and protect women and children from it.

The country has been under lockdown since 26 March, with the population remaining at home, physically isolated in an attempt to ‘flatten the curve’ of transmission of the Covid-19 virus.

However, the lockdown means that some are trapped in their homes with their oppressors.

“A lockdown impacts women differently. For some women, being forced into lockdown with an already abusive partner heightens the risk of abuse and violence. It also means less support and fewer chances to seek help,” ICJ Senior Legal Adviser Emerlynne Gil said.

On 3 April, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that the South African Police Services had received 87,000 SGBV complaints violence during the first week of the national Covid lockdown.

Among the complainants was the wife of a police officer who reported that her husband had raped her. The officer has since been arrested.

The South African authorities have taken some steps to enhance women’s access to protection from SGBV during this lockdown, including by ensuring that women have access to courts for urgent civil matters, such as protection orders, as well as ensuring that there is an SMS line through which they can seek help.

Social services and shelters have also been made available. However, the authorities can and should go further in ensuring that these services are widely publicized, and that women have effective access them during the lockdown.

“Under international human rights law, States are legally obliged to take measures to prevent, address and eliminate SGBV,” ICJ Legal Associate Khanyo Farisè said.

“The South African authorities should do more, in particular, by raising awareness about GBV and providing comprehensive multi-sectoral responses to victims.”

Under international human rights law binding on South Africa, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, States are obligated to take all appropriate measures to eliminate violence against women of any kind occurring within the family, at the work place or in any other area of social life.

In a previous statement, the ICJ also called on States to ensure that measures to tackle Covid-19 are gender responsive.

The ICJ calls on South African authorities to:

  • Widely publicize health and legal services, safe houses and social services and police services available to victims of SGBV, including the hotline 0800-428-428 or *120*786#
  • Effectively respond to reported cases of SGBV and provide protection to victims through a multi-sectoral approach involving all relevant stakeholders.
  • Investigate the causes of SGBV, including the surge of this scourge in the South African context during the COVID19 pandemic, and identify further measures to protect women against SGBV that are specifically required during pandemics.
  • Implement “pop-up” counseling centres in mobile clinics or in pharmacies to support women who experience SGBV.
  • Include the work of domestic violence professionals as an essential service and provide emergency resources for anti-domestic abuse organizations to help them respond to increased demand for services.


Khanyo  Farisè, ICJ Legal Associate, e: nokukhanya.Farise(a)icj.org

Shaazia Ebrahim, ICJ Media Officer, e: shaazia.ebrahim(a)icj.org

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