Women’s Protection in the Criminal Justice System Requires Stronger Multi-Sectoral, Quality Services that Respond to Women’s Needs
Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Bangkok, Thailand — To strengthen the criminal justice sector response to sexual violence, it is essential to establish quality essential justice services for victims that prioritize their safety, protection and support, today’s workshop by UN Women and partners concluded.
To improve the quality of and access to essential services for victims of gender-based violence, it is necessary to enhance understanding of the essential services for women and girls subject to violence- what any victim should expect for assistance. Developing quality services requires strengthening the capacity of service providers from the health sector, justice and policing sector, social services sectors and coordination and governance amongst sectors.
The workshop, “Protection of Women in the Criminal Justice System,” co-organised by Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ), Thailand’s Office of Attorney-General and UN Women addressed barriers that inhibit reporting of sexual violence and reduce the likelihood that a woman will persist in seeking redress through the criminal justice system.
“Repeated interviews from authorities when violence cases are reported, through investigation and prosecution results in extensive questioning back and forth repeatedly making victim relive trauma. Cases related to sexual violence are highly sensitive and emotionally arduous, and often result in stigma for the victims,” said the Deputy Attorney-General Nipaporn Rujjanarong.
Despite the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act B.E. 2550 (2007), violence against women and girls (VAWG) occurs widely, ranging from physical and sexual violence by intimate partners to trafficking and sexual exploitation, there are still no specific provisions under the Criminal Code and Labour Protection Act to address the issues of VAWG comprehensively.
As of today, victims of violence have inadequate access to the essential services that they need. Discriminatory gender stereotypes, cultural beliefs and strong patriarchal attitudes play a significant role in allowing violence against women to continue.
“Police and justice officers are not immune to the gender biases and stereotypes which exist in society. They also often lack specialized training to be able to properly deal with cases of violence against women, such as rape or domestic violence. This prevents many women who experience violence from accessing the essential services they need and are entitled to,” said Anna-Karin Jatfors, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women Asia and the Pacific.
The inadequate reception and treatment by receiving officers results in women dropping their attempts to get justice when they first report violence. Women often have limited knowledge and access to information about their rights. In addition, referral networks and coordination mechanisms are often limited. As a result of lack of services and fear or retaliation and social stigma, including from police and justice officers, most cases of violence are not reported to services providers, she added.
Nowdays, there has been an increase in attention towards violence against women particularly in forms of domestic violence and sexual conduct. “Criminal justice process requires indisputable evidence to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. The process can result in women survivors of violence/witnesses being at risk of secondary victimization throughout collection of evidence, forensic examinations and legal process,” said TIJ Special Advisor Ambassador Adisak Panupong.
Such violence and inadequate access to justice have numerous consequences for the health, social and economic well-being of women and girls, stopping them from fulfilling their true potential. Violence against women also carries high economic costs for societies. Violence against Women and inadequate access to justice are an impediment to sustainable development. The recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the inclusion of the standalone goal 5 of Gender Equality recognize that advancing gender equality and ending violence against women are critical for overall sustainable development.
In 2016, UN Women supported Thailand’s Office of Attorney General in building capacity on strengthening women’s access to justice, in part through developing guidelines on the justice responses to violence against women and legal safeguard for the victims of domestic violence. One of the outcomes was to develop recommendations for the Protective Measures of Victim Safeguards Bill as well as to implement guidelines on preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls with the support of UN Women.
UN Women and TIJ, in collaboration with Thailand’s Office of Attorney General, are working together to build capacity of authorities related to criminal justice process i.e. police, prosecutors and other criminal justice officials to share and discuss experiences for effective collaboration and practices. The Multi-sectoral workshop on criminal justice processes on the protection of women is being organized in Bangkok today through 3 November 2017.