When women and children in Pacific Island and Caribbean region access the formal court system in gender-based violence cases, they face numerous barriers that block their pathway to justice. ICAAD's evidence (through review of 1000s of cases) shows the driving force behind this problem is gender discrimination, which includes: stereotypes, rape myths, and specific customary practices. By engaging civil society and the judiciary we use the insights from data to inform our interventions.
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 with the accused perpetrator, 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 initiative aims to strengthen the rule of law in the Pacific & Caribbean region 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 training. A greater understanding and awareness of how gender stereotypes and norms contribute to low sentences will improve justice for victims/survivors by halting 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. 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 30 million women and girls in the Pacific & Caribbean region.