Kenya Marked the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence with an array of activities together with stakeholders in creating awareness on gender-based violence and calling for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls under the theme: “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!”
As part of creating awareness on access to justice system and mechanism, UN Women partnered with the International Association of Women Judges – Kenya Chapter organized Moot Court sessions held in open courts in Nairobi, Mumias and Malindi Law Courts.
The Moot Court sessions that target Survivors of GBV, Law Students, youth and the general public were aimed at providing insights and opportunities for participants and survivors to experience first-hand what a court session entails and sensitize the public on laws and procedures in addressing Gender-Based Violence cases across the chain of evidence.
Acknowledging that justice to survivors is not a legal stop in itself but an amalgamation services from medical, prosecution and police working together, the session integrated these stakeholders to reflect on their role towards a successful justice to survivors. This provided an opportunity for the duty bearers to interface with the public on the gaps and challenges in the prosecution of GBV cases in Kenya.
Prosecution is a response to the problem and not just the solution, there is need for a change of attitude and behavior of the society towards women and girls, and this calls for a multi-stakeholder approach.
Hon. Lady Justice Hanna Okwengu– President of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) Kenya Chapter
Challenges in accessing justice
Through an open question and answer session, the moot court shed light on some of the challenges faced including Intimidation of victims by perpetrators with a request to withdraw the cases, Inadequate preparation of both the prosecutor and defense counsels to present the case, language barrier, and lack of proper presentation of evidence.
Evidence remains key as the basis of prosecution and hence the emphasis on the need to collect and preserve evidence and especially at both the reporting level with the police and at the medical level with the doctors. With this evidence came the accompanying need for proper documentation as it was noted that most cases as challenged on technicalities which in most cases challenges the documentation of the evidence.
We as a court need to explore the possibility of having special courts, either on full time or part-time basis to give the cases priority and to fastrack the cases that are already too many. Lady Justice Hanna Okwengu– President of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) Kenya Chapter
As a medical doctor handling survivor of sexual violence, understanding the act in itself is a criminal offense will ensure that I give the case the importance it deserves and look out for additional evidence I would need to collect, how to process, package and maintain chain of custody.
Dr. Kizzie Shako, a Forensic Medical Practitioner
Mr. Kiprono Langat, representing the National Police Service Commission (NPS) highlighted that the police have been taken through evidence collection as a breakdown in this stage will mean that the case cannot proceed successfully. In addition, the police have developed standard operating procedures that are standardized across all police stations in the country, however, much still remains to be done.
Going forward, the forum highlighted the need for the following intervention in order to make the justice system efficient:
- continuous awareness-raising with communities and the public on access to justice looking at also legal literacy and knowledge of rights among rights holders.
- continuous capacity building of duty bearers on handling GBV cases including the issue of chain of evidence custody.
- Need to address the data gaps and the statistics on SGBV that would inform policy as well as advocacy
- Inadequacy of safe house and the need to engage counties and government in ensuring that this can be provided
- Strengthening coordination and a multisectoral approach in addressing gender-based violence.