Blantyre — Executive Director for Panos Southern Africa, Lilian Kiefer has said issues of Gender Based Violence (GBV) could be reduced if there is increased to access to justice among women in the country.
She told Malawi News Agency on Tuesday in Blantyre that access to justice has been both a preventive and mitigating strategy in addressing gender based violence.
Kiefer said justice systems should play a critical role in addressing some of the challenges women are facing in order to curb GBV.
She described GBV as a serious developmental challenge that must be addressed comprehensively.
"Consequences of GBV are that women's health is at risk, their dignity is undermined thereby limiting their participation in society and causing great human suffering. GBV is a violation of human rights for those directly and indirectly affected. It denies women and girls an opportunity to fully enjoy their dignity, thereby undermining their ability to contribute positively to our socioeconomic development," the Executive Director pointed out.
She stated that if a study was conducted on the economic cost of GBV, Malawians would all be shocked at the tens of thousands of Kwacha's that the country loses by subjecting women and girls to GBV.
The special report on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (on women in the criminal justice system - as legal professionals, victims, witnesses or offenders) notes that: "Women are not intrinsically vulnerable; it is their particular individual situation, coupled with pervasive societal gender-based discrimination, which facilitates their being threatened and targeted by violence."
Kiefer reminded the nation that there are many ways of addressing GBV, citing legal approach as one of them.
She said for GBV survivors and potential victims to use the legal route to seek either redress or protection from GBV, there is need for much easier and facilitated better access to justice.
"In a broad sense, access to justice for women for acts of gender-based violence demands that the State must implement a range of measures including, where necessary, amending domestic laws to ensure that acts of violence against women are properly defined as crimes and ensuring appropriate procedures for investigations, prosecutions and access to effective remedies and reparation," The Panos Chief explained
Kiefer said there are other ideas of justice that can also be explored such as the ability to seek safety through effective protection orders; physical and mental recovery through good quality and accessible health services; and/or the opportunity to seek a divorce and a new life free from the violence of a spouse.
She said most often, traditional values limit the ability of women from accessing these forms of justice, and those who brave it suffer stigmatisation and victimisation for going against the norm.
Kiefer added that her organisation's experience has been that many women who are subjected to gender-based violence do not seek justice, frequently because they fear further violence or have no confidence in the justice system.
She concluded that when women could effectively access justice for gender-based violence through institutionalised mechanisms and effective implementation of favourable policies to eradicate gender inequality, a successful battle against GBV can be launched and won.
Malawi continues to celebrate 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence with a number of activities lined up throughout the country to raise awareness on the dangers of the vice.