When women and children in PICs access the formal justice system in GBV cases, perpetrators have been shown to receive disproportionately low sentences or no custodial sentence at all for domestic violence and sexual offenses. We believe that the evidence shows the driving force behind this problem is gender discrimination, which includes: stereotypes, rape myths, and customary reconciliation practices.
The role of informal and formal reconciliation is significant in GBV cases because it places an enormous social pressure upon the victim to accept an apology and reconcile, withdraw their complaint, or refuse to cooperate with police and prosecution. Moreover, judges often do not recognise the inherent power imbalance within the reconciliation process. By allowing gender bias to play a role in decision making, judges are creating barriers for women to access justice.
ICAAD's access to justice project aims to strengthen the rule of law by restoring accountability, transparency, and consistency to the judiciary. Our focus is to change the attitudes and behaviors of judges and prosecutors through evidence (data collection and analysis) and train them to recognize how gender stereotypes and cultural norms contribute to low levels of sentencing, thereby denying access to justice for victims/ survivors by perpetuating the cycle of violence.
By increasing transparency, accountability, and consistency of the justice system, women and girls will have better access to justice and protection from violence, and fair sentences for domestic violence and sexual offenses will convey to the perpetrator and the broader community that GBV will not be tolerated. As attitudes shift, these will be reflected in laws, policies, and societal norms that impact 6.5 million women and girls in the region.