Women judges, magistrates and prosecutors have signed a commitment that would see a concerted approach by women justice actors to combating Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Africa.
The representatives of associations of women judges, magistrates and prosecutors from the African region resolved and committed to establishing the International Association of Women Judges-Africa Region Forum to eliminate sexual and gender based violence.
The group also committed itself to ensuring that women judges and national associations undertake to carry out sustained advocacy to curb sexual and gender based violence within their jurisdictions.
The signing happened after the delegates from Kenya, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Somalia and Zambia from Africa met in Nairobi during “Regional Conference for Women Justice Actors on Knowledge Sharing, Creating Partnerships and Combating Systemic Impunity Towards Gender Based Violence” to discuss proper adjudication of Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases in the region.
The officials shared experiences from their various regions on the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of GBV cases during the two-day conference themed, “Strengthening the Role and Contribution of Women Justice Actions in the Adjudication of GBV Cases,” that ended on Saturday.
Other resolutions reached included establishing national associations of women judges in countries that do not have and holding an annual rotational conference for the regional platform where issues of sexual and gender based violence can be reviewed.
The forum provided an opportunity for participants to engage and share experiences and good practices in handling GBV cases in the region with the ultimate aim of combating systemic impunity towards GBV.
Participants observed that GBV was prevalent in the region despite a raft of legislation and policy frameworks to address the problem. They said that GBV was rampant due to weak enforcement mechanisms, lack of awareness, culture, poverty and gender discrimination and called for strategies that transcend legal and policy intervention.
The conference also reflected on the status of gender equality and women empowerment in the context of SGBV and GBV in the African context; experiences sharing on investigation, prosecution and adjudication of GBV cases; Pathways, models and effective strategies for overcoming barriers to resolution of GBV cases.
On Friday, during his Key Note Address at the conference, Chief Justice David Maraga said despite the strict and punitive legislation, the challenge of GBV still persisted in Kenya.
The CJ observed that currently a majority of GBV offences go unreported in part because of a non-conducive justice system or heavy stigma and harmful norms and attitudes that lead to silence of their victims adding that this clearly need strategies that go beyond legislative and policy reforms to deal with the problem.
The President of KWJA Justice Hannah Okwengu explained that women judges are appalled and distraught at the number of cases involving GBV that they have to deal with every day in court adding that the society’s tolerance to abuse of women and children must be deplored.
She said that as women justice actors, they believe that all actors and duty bearers in dealing with GBV cases including the community leaders must be held to account and that the rights of women and children must be protected