GENDER BASED VIOLENCE

Online Courts: How they handled GBV cases

As it was virtual, survivors were speared from being in the same room as perpetrators

In Summary

• Apart from helping survivors to receive dignified trials, online courts also helped them to lessen their costs.

• Survivors did not need to travel back and forth to hear the cases and wait for cases to be deliberated.

A video conference court session at the Malindi law courts on March 20
A video conference court session at the Malindi law courts on March 20
Image: COURTESY

Kenya has a long history of violence against women and girls.

A study by the Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) on the experiences of women with Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) shows the prevalence increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It found that women reported increased frequency, severity, and new forms of violence during the pandemic.

“The most common form of intimate partner violence was physical violence, with the majority of victims being women, and the perpetrators their intimate partners,” the report said.

Often women are scared to report instances of violence against them because it is difficult to report.

Lack of reporting is a major hindrance to the fight against Intimate Partner Violence as women often find it difficult to report perpetrators known to them.

For many survivors, it is even more difficult to face known perpetrators in the courtroom when a hearing has been set.

Hence when the Judiciary put a stop to physical court hearings, it was a reprieve for many survivors.

This meant they would not be in the same room with their oppressors, thus relieving them of some pain.

In the report by CREAW, the study respondents appreciated the efforts made by the sector to adapt their service delivery approaches to online platforms to ensure continuity in service delivery to survivors of GBV.

A lawyer from Nairobi said despite the pandemic, he was able to attend to his clients well.

“I have been able to help them file cases, sign online through email, pleading for them, and conduct and present their cases in court,” they said.

“Nowadays, the perpetrators are being heard at the police station. Therefore, the police do not have to wait to present the perpetrators at the physical court. This has ensured that the bond is not given by the police but by the magistrate,” another lawyer said.

Apart from helping survivors receive dignified trials, online courts also helped them to lessen their costs.

Survivors did not need to travel back and forth to hear the cases and wait for cases to be deliberated.

Usually, cases of Gender-based violence may take a long time to be concluded, making survivors suffer economically.

The Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA) also launched Virtual Court systems for their clients in 2020, especially those who could not access the Judiciary’s online hearings.

In their report, they said that online courts were effective, especially for sensitive cases such as sexual assault, defilement and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

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