Empowering Women in decision making, meeting challenges and creating change
Justice Catherine Davani
Women's Day, March 24 2006, Gateway Hotel
I am invited in my capacity as a judge. What I speak to you about is based on what I perceive to be inadequacies in the system that you and I as women leaders in the law and justice sector can address.
The second paragraph of Ms Kesno's letter of invitation suggested that framework or confines of this talk. What appealed to me most and which would appear for me to talk about is the last sentence of the second paragraph which is "The law and justice agencies also have a role to play in ensuring that women and men benefit equally from services provided by the sector and especially in administering justice for the crimes committed against women and girls in this country".
The crimes committed against women and girls are many and varied ranging from wife bashing to incest. So they say, the victims, must endure the process of prosecution and giving evidence.
But how can you the women in the law and justice sector help them? Do we have services out there that can assist these women and girls? How do you assist women in this process? Have you even as a group, pushed for the enactment of legislation or creation of bodies that would assist the victim curb her trauma and I am not talking about increasing penalties.
The victim in the whole process of the so called justice is usually left to fend for herself, eg the incest victim. Let's take a case scenario where a young girl of say 16 resides in a home with her father who continually has sex with her. And lo and behold her mother knows about it. But is she going to do anything about it. No, because she needs him. He is their bread winner, he provides a roof over their heads, and he pays for the expenses in the home. So she lets it continue, right under her nose, oblivious to the fact that her daughter is suffering, ignoring her pleas for help. And do you know why this continues, because there is no established system in place where this women and her daughter can go to for help, knowing that they will be protected by the system.
You working in the Police department, is there public awareness about where these women or children can go to for help? You working in the Department of Social Welfare, what have you done to help them? If it is you as an individual who has to stand up and make decisions based on your experiences that will ultimately result in legislation being passed or agencies/bodies set up to provide for their needs. I am aware there are places in Port Moresby and Lae that have some, although inadequate, facilities to assist these victims of crime.
And of course the victims of crime are the children. In a case where a man is sentenced for having committed incest and the wife is arrested, prosecuted and sentenced for being an accessory to that crime, there are those children of the marriage apart from the molested child who are 'left behind'. What happens to these children? Does the Police department work closely with the Department of Social Welfare, in cases of this nature. Is there a system in place where the Police contact the welfare to locate foster parents to look after these children? Or are they ultimately dumped with the relatives. And we all know for a fact that not all relatives are willing to take care of children who will prove to be of additional financial and physical burden.
Again, we should start working together to identify these inadequacies and to immediately address them. We have this responsibility to our children, our womenfolk, menfolk and our country.
As you have observed, I am not going to talk about promotion and opportunities and gender balance because that is not my field. I am here to put to you challenges that will get you to network and fight to change for the betterment of the victims of crime. It is time we in the Law and Justice Sector start working together.
That is your challenge.