A path towards justice: judges' perspectives on VAW cases
Date: 13 March 2017
BRINGING JUSTICE TO WOMEN SURVIVORS OF VIOLENCE
"One of the biggest challenges we face when dealing with violence against women cases is that women are not free to decide whether to proceed with their case."
Jehad Sharawna, Judge at the Magistrate Court of Bethlehem
Raed Asi, Judge at the Appeal Court in Ramallah
"This environment which lacks privacy usually results in having the victim only disclosing part of what has happened to her and losing evidence."
Dalal Almashny, Judge at the First Instance Court in Nablus
For judges, this requires an understanding of the social dynamics and power relations between men and women in the community. Judges are not always immune themselves from societal norms and pressures, which influence their perceptions of cases, including perceptions of credibility of both alleged perpetrators, victims and witnesses. For example, changing perceptions of rape from an act of sexual desire to an act of violence, power and control is critical. Justice often focuses on women as victims and in need of protection rather than on their rights to justice and equal treatment before the law as men.
Osama Al Dabbas, Judge at First Instance Court in Nablus
“Sadly there are still judges and members of public who have never been properly educated or have not taken to heart the true nature of that particular crime.”
Shireen Fisher, Judge (USA), Special Court for Sierra Leone
Considering the severity of violence against women and understanding the specificities of these cases is essential for safety, protection and bringing justice to victims. Training, but also proper specialization of judges, can support adjudication of these cases by giving judges the legal and procedural tools to overcome socio-procedural barriers preventing the victim's access to her rights.
Malika Hafid, Judge, Morocco
Beyond criminal and procedural law, the sensitivity of judges is critical in establishing a conducive environment supporting a fair judgement of the case. Repeated questioning, medical and forensic examination, community and family pressures and social stigma all create an intimidating, often traumatic process, that serve as a barrier to women continuing the case and can lead to loss of evidence. Linking and liaising with other specialized services is therefore important to support the psychological well-being and empower the victim to tell her story without reliving the trauma.
Awatif Ahmed, Judge at the Jerusalem Appeal Court
“These services mean that women will have more opportunities to access justice and get back their dignities and be treated more fairly/dignity."
Amina Oufroukhi, Judge, Morocco
JUSTICE, PROTECTION & DETERRENCE
“It is important to give protection to women victims who have the strength to come forward because they are also setting an example for their sisters within their society who might be suffering in the same way.”
Theresa Anne Doherty, Judge, Northern Ireland