How women judges, magistrates are backing the fight against gender-based violence

Lady Justice Hellen Omondi during an interview on Spice FM in Nairobi. 

As the world prepares to mark the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based violence (GBV), women judges and magistrates in Kenya have pledged to take their fight beyond the courtrooms and into the communities.

The campaign, which runs from November 25 to December 10, aims to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls.

Lady Justice Hellen Omondi, the President of the International Association of Women Judges said that the Judiciary cannot eradicate GBV by legislation alone and that there's a need to engage the public and the victims directly.

“We are keenly involved in the 16-day activism campaign because we understand that the law alone cannot solve and end gender-based violence. We will be going to the grassroots and trying to reach every person,” Omondi said in an interview with Spice FM on Thursday, November 16.

She noted that many GBV cases go unreported due to fear of stigma and backlash from families and society, adding that the Judiciary will create a safe space for the survivors to voice their concerns and seek justice.

“We want to assure them that we are here to listen to them and to help them. We also want to educate them on their rights and the legal options available to them,” she added.

Reiterating her sentiments, Principal Magistrate at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) Law Courts Rene Kitagwa said Gender-Based Violence is a worrisome issue that affects many women and girls in different forms.

She averred that society often ignores or trivializes the problem, noting that there is a need to change the attitudes and norms that perpetuate it.

"The society has the tendency to sweep gender-based violence issues, especially around women, under the rug. Thus, going to the people and creating awareness around it is important." 

One of the initiatives that the Judiciary has undertaken to address GBV is the establishment of a specialized court that deals exclusively with such cases.

Omondi said that this was a crucial step in delivering justice as GBV cases tend to take longer in the normal courts, and in the process, witnesses can be interfered with and re-traumatize the survivors. 

“The GBV court is meant to fast-track the cases and ensure that the victims get the support and protection they need. It also has a friendly environment that is sensitive to the needs and emotions of the victims,” she explained.

The 16-day activism against GBV campaign will target different counties, especially those that have recorded high numbers of gender-based violence cases, and focus on specific communities and age groups.

Omondi said that they will partner with other stakeholders, such as civil society organizations, religious leaders, and local authorities, to reach out to as many people as possible, urging the public to join the campaign and support the efforts to end GBV.

"This is not a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue. We all have a role to play in ending GBV and creating a safe and peaceful society for everyone,” she said.

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