Judiciary to launch bench book on violence against women

Judges follow proceedings during their annual conference at the White Sands Hotel in Mombasa yesterday /JOHN CHESOLI
Judges follow proceedings during their annual conference at the White Sands Hotel in Mombasa yesterday /JOHN CHESOLI

The Judiciary is developing a judicial bench book on violence against women to reduce the crime, speed up trials and mete out stiffer penalties on offenders.

This will expose injustice that arises from failure to interpret the law through a gender perspective, High Court Judge James Makau said on Tuesday. Makau is authoring the book.

The book will look into major problems encountered by violence victims as they seek justice. Makau said the problems include absence of legislation to criminalise cases of violence against women.

According to judiciary records, women and girls are physically assaulted, raped and genitally mutated on a daily basis. The trend is common in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Makau said there is an outright bias in courtrooms, the “men mindset” and gender stereotypes that undermine rulings.

“[There is] failure by judicial officers to apply or interpret the law in a gender sensitive manner. Such obstacles cripple women’s efforts to access justice,” he said.

The judge addressed fellow judges during the ongoing annual judges’ conference in Mombasa. He added the book will discuss structural barriers to justice.

“This can be the geographical location of courts, financial and other related implications, the cost of accessing justice and the fear of secondary victimisation,” Makau said.

He said the judiciary is insensitive and has limited knowledge of gender and women’s rights the law and standards, making it difficult to get a fair trial.

The book will identify best practices and groundbreaking court decisions across the region. It will contribute towards driving social change. In this regard, it is hoped it will improve judicial officers’ ability to handle cases of violence against women, based on human rights and gender perspectives.

Makau said some of the cases in the book offer examples of how particular courts have mainstreamed gender in the judicial process.

“It will focus on how particular courts have applied internationally accepted human rights standards in adjudicating matters before them,” he said. He said in some cases, offenders have walked free, but added the perpetrators will be pursued, prosecuted and punished.

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