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Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific

by International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)
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Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific
Fiji Ministry of Social Welfare, Women & Poverty
Fiji Ministry of Social Welfare, Women & Poverty

Every time a sentence is reduced because of gender bias, the survivor is robbed of their justice, and it sends a signal to aggressors that crimes against women and girls are not serious. ICAAD believes it is imperative to increase transparency and accountability in the legal system to reduce the occurrence of violence.

Written in partnership with global law firms Clifford Chance (U.K.) and DLA Piper (Australia), and local judicial experts, ICAAD will soon be releasing the first ever Sentencing Handbook on gender based violence for the Pacific Region. The Sentencing Handbook will function as an instructional guide for: judges when evaluating GBV cases, prosecutors, civil society organizations, and lawyers and law students who will conduct case law analysis for TrackGBV, a public access legal database ICAAD is currently creating.

The Handbook will provide the methodology for analysis of GBV cases; detail the scope of GBV in the Pacific, its causes, and forms of violence; define gender bias, gender myths/ stereotypes, customary practices, and its relationship to sentencing; and promote the understanding of international law principles, status of custom in domestic legislation, international and national best practices, and GBV related legislation.

The goal of the Handbook is to provide education to practitioners to avoid the influence of gender-bias in decision making, and to be able to voice concerns during Court proceedings when discriminatory factors are raised.

Your support makes it possible to promote systemic change and increase access to justice for women and girls in the Pacific. We greatly appreciate your assistance. 

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Let's promote justice for girls in PICs
Let's promote justice for girls in PICs

Following a trip to the Pacific in March to advance the Justice for Women & Girls in the Pacific program, the ICAAD team has been consulting with Chief Justices across the region, discussing the need for better access to lower court decisions and potential opportunities to give trainings. The Chief Justice of the Marshall Islands has volunteered to send DV and sexual offence cases to ICAAD going back to 2000 for inclusion in PacLII and the TrackGBV (gender-based violence) sentencing database we are building. 

ICAAD's sentencing report was presented by the Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative (PJSI) - run by Federal Courts of Australia - at a judicial consultation in April in Samoa, with 14 Chief Justices attending from across the region. The Chief Justice of Tonga and a Judge in Samoa also expressed interest in our analysis, and are interested in ensuring that Tongan and Samoan cases also are analyzed for gender-bias by ICAAD.

With your support, we are:

  • Promoting legal reform by providing actionable GBV data to local advocates;
  • Influencing judicial attitudes and behaviors through rule of law trainings;
  • Partnering with Chief Justices to increase transparency in court systems;
  • Training women’s rights organizations regionally;
  • Teaching a human rights course on gender bias in the judiciary to law students;
  • Building a scholarship fund for local women to attend law school.
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Chief Justice Anthony Gates, Supreme Court of Fiji
Chief Justice Anthony Gates, Supreme Court of Fiji

ICAAD has continued to make tremendous progress on its innovative new initiative, TrackGBV, a regional sentencing database that provides advocates and judges tools and data to improve access to justice for women and girls in gender-based violence cases. We are developing TrackGBV in conjunction with the University of the South Pacific School of Law, six international law firms, and two technology companies.

From March 2nd -15th, ICAAD traveled to 3 countries (Australia, Vanuatu, and Fiji) and 5 cities (Brisbane, Melbourne, Suva, Nadi, and Port Vila) to meet and partner with local civil society organizations, women’s rights advocates, and government officials. The aim of our trip was to lay the ground work for rule of law trainings for advocates, lawyers, and judges based on the data from TrackGBV, to ensure the judiciary would be more transparent in providing access to key domestic violence and sexual offense cases, and to meet with Embassy officials from the U.S., Britain, and Australia to discuss support of the initiative. 

Here is a list of next steps based on conversations with some of the local stakeholders:

  • University of South Pacific (Port Vila, Vanuatu): Develop 6-week human rights training program focused on gender bias in the judiciary
  • University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia): Identify students who may participate in-person or virtually in the human rights program at USP
  • Vanuatu Women’s Centre (Port Vila, Vanuatu): Training on ICAAD’s methodology for looking at gender bias in domestic violence and sexual offence cases and the integration of the VWC team into the human rights training program
  • Police-Justice Support Unit and Ministry of Justice (Port Vila, Vanuatu): Work to get the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Vanuatu to make magistrate level cases publicly available. Domestic violence cases first go through the magistrate courts.
  • Regional Resource Rights Team (RRRT – Suva, Fiji): Understand how we can assist their ongoing work with magistrate training in Tonga and Solomon Islands
  • Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM – Suva, Fiji): Assist FWRM on their collaboration with Medical Services Pacific (MSP) on case-law analysis and the importance of documentation at health centers in GBV cases
  • Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Suva, Fiji): Met with Justice Gates to explore possibility of judicial training and procuring case-law data for TrackGBV

On behalf of the entire ICAAD team, thank you for your ongoing support! 

Vanuatu Women's Centre- Lynrose, Margret, and Vola
Vanuatu Women's Centre- Lynrose, Margret, and Vola
Univ. of Queensland- Faculty, Admin., Students
Univ. of Queensland- Faculty, Admin., Students

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Healthcare Matters for Gender-Based Violence
Healthcare Matters for Gender-Based Violence

We are excited to share news around two major advancements to our initiatives in the Pacific Islands to promote access to justice for women and girls. 

In an effort to take forward our groundbreaking work on judicial bias in sentencing practices, ICAAD is partnering with the University of the South Pacific School of Law (USP-Vanuatu) and HURIDOCS, a leading information management and technology CSO that supports human rights, to create a Regional GBV Sentencing Database.

Part of the work will be to analyze over 4,000 cases from across the Pacific Island region -- to handle this massive effort, ICAAD is partnership with four new law firms to join DLA Piper and Manatt to assist in the initiative: Clifford Chance, Colin Biggers Paisley, White & Case, and Linklaters.

Furthermore, following consultations with local stakeholders, ICAAD and DLA Piper has been working for the past-year to develop a comprehensive medico-legal training program to educate medical professionals on best practices in providing care for survivors of violence, ensuring that crucial evidence is properly documented and handled, and testifying in court. Experts at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Australia are also assisting in development, and we look forward to providing our first medico-legal training program in 2017!

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A Reason to Support Access to Justice
A Reason to Support Access to Justice

We congratulate all those involved in the amendment, and encourage efforts to overcome the many barriers survivors face.

Recent changes in Solomon Islands laws reflect the government's recognition of the extreme prevalence of violence against women and girls. A Solomon Islands Family Health and Safety Study revealed that 64% of women and girls ages 15-49 reported intimate partner violence. Another study showed that 37% of women reported sexual abuse before the age of 15, primarily by male relatives or boyfriends.

Furthermore, a study showed that 73% of women and 73% of men “believe violence against women is justifiable” in certain circumstances, exhibiting how deeply embedded the norm of gender-based violence is in society. The ability of a survivor to access justice is limited by a number of barriers, from family and community members, to police, prosecutors, and judges.

promotejustice

A 2015 study by ICAAD and partner law firm DLA Piper identified that judges in the Solomon Islands were reducing sentences by half in sexual assault cases. The report was presented to the Attorney General and Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Solomon Islands in December of 2015. One of the primary recommendations of the widely cited report was to promote consistency in sentencing, echoing recommendations by UN Women, while also seeking sentences proportional to the gravity of the crime.

sentencing

Commenting on the ICAAD's rule of law training, James Apainau, Attorney General of the Solomon Islands said, “I would like to thank the presenters for a very informative and challenging set of issues on domestic violence and sexual offenses…[As former Judge] one of the challenges we face as Judges when it comes to sentencing is the laws of the country as well as the need to be consistent in whatever sentences we pass…I feel like the only way we can press this issue is through legislation.”

In fantastic news, after more than two years of being forestalled in the legislature, the Solomon Islands amended its legislation to impose harsher penalties in sexual assault and domestic violence cases. Women's rights advocates in Solomon Islands and in the region have been working to push these important changes for years and the report added to the evidence needed to produce legislative reform.

Some of the major changes to the laws are the addition of penalties for:

  • Attempted rape of a minor under 15 years of age, allowing for sentencing up to 20 years.
  • Attempted rape above the age of 15, allowing for sentencing up to 15 years. Previously the law treated abduction or detention with intent to rape as a misdemeanor offense.
  • Harm arising from attempted rape, allowing for a sentence up to 25 years.
  • Sexual crimes involving disabled persons.
  • Procuration or attempted procuration of a child (under 15) to perform an indecent act or to have sexual intercourse. 
ICAAD's gender-bias in the judiciary report has been cited numerous times including:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Organization Information

International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD)

Location: Chappaqua, NY - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ICAADglobal
Project Leader:
Hansdeep Singh
Co-Founder, Director of Legal Programmes
Chappaqua, NY United States
$75,230 raised of $80,000 goal
 
254 donations
$4,770 to go
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