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How the police,prosecutors and courts have failed in the fight on violence against women

Updated on July 16, 2013

The legal and criminal justice systems response to violence against women

Most developing countries have a justice system that fails to acknowledge the criminality of the intimate terror to protect women from violence.The police, the prosecuter and even the judges or magistrates often show unwillingness to understand causes and consequences of domestic violence and even to enforce the laws against domestic violence.The attitude and conduct of law enforcement officials often reflect those of the general community which is the attitude that domestic violence is not a serious crime but rather a private problem to be dealt with at home or by a woman herself.

Del Martin says sanctity of the family pervade the world of law enforcement.He further says “a man’s home is his castle and the police,district attorney’s and the judges hesitate to interfere with what goes on behind that tightly closed door.

The police do not have any specialized training in responding to incidences of domestic violence.Their training is based on how to maintain peace and order generally but there is no specific training related to procedure related to handling domestic violence cases.The police have hence been a stumbling block to victims seeking justice.

The police too do not act swiftly in arresting husbands who have beaten their wives and if they do, they rarely charge them in court.They instead turn themselves into counselors pointing the finger at the wife for refusing to obey the husband.They then persuade the wife to drop the charges and release the perpetrator back to the society.The safety of the woman is thus not their priority.

Sheelagh Stwart says that the police have enthusiastically embrased the idea of counseling as a solution to domestic violence.Police are in most cases non-responsive to the complains of battered women and often actively hostile to women repertory domestic violence.The attitudes and assumptions that they have about women and domestic violence undermine the proper functioning of the law and present difficulties to women victims trying to access justice.

Prosecution is also another area of concern with regard to legal responses.The united nations report says inter alia

“The decision to prosecute cases of domestic violence rest, in most jurisdictions with prosecutors office which represents the state.This offices have not prosecuted most cases of domestic violence referred to them, nor have they treated these cases as involving violence between strangers.”

The prosecutors just like their counterparts, the police sometimes try to discourage women from using the law to protect themselves.

The courts too don’t intend to regard intimate terror seriously.Del Martin says if judges would get tough and act like judges rather than counselors perhaps women could obtain relief through the judicial process.

However,in one unique situation in Kenya in the Kavada murder case, the learned judge in 2000 gave a clear statement from the judiciary that domestic violence is a crime that needs to be checked and for the first time a batterer was imprisoned for life in Kenya for murdering his wife.

It is important to note that most countries have no specific law dealing with domestic violence.There are only laws on assault ,assault causing bodily harm and murder.The existing provisions of gender violence are inadequate because they do not specifically deal with domestic violence.

Other factors would include the fact that violence at home rarely has other witnesses,victims are reluctant to complain and punishment is not severe enough not to mention that a lot o perpetrators never get to the trial stage leave alone the punishment.

The law enforcement machinery is inefficient and insensitive to the peculiar needs of women.It is biased as seen from the police,prosecutors and the courts.

Most constitutions too don’t have specific provisions on the subject.However, the bill of rights,the right to security, the rights and liberties of the person, given a wider interpretation would include domestic violence as an infringement of a right to security.If the judiciary was not biased there are various provisions of the law that can be used to fight domestic violence.


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