Commonwealth launches legal resource on violence against women

The Commonwealth will launch the first ever resource in East Africa to provide legal benchmarks on dealing with cases of violence against women.The
cutting-edge publication, which will be launched on 29 June in Nairobi, Kenya, establishes what constitutes violence against women and girls and how
the judiciary can apply national laws in the context of international human rights laws.Nearly 40 participants will attend the launch - many will be
senior members of the judiciary, including the Chief Justices of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.According to the World Health Organization, one
in three women globally has suffered some form of violence either at the hands of an intimate partner or a stranger. In East and Southern Africa,
violence against girls in school is one of the major contributing factors to high school dropout rates for girls (Source: UN Women).In her first days in
office, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland identified ending violence against women as one of her policy priorities.In a message to
participants, she said: Domestic violence is the greatest cause of morbidity in women and girls. It kills and injures more women and girls than
anything else. My aspiration is that together we will reduce the aberrant impact of domestic violence in all our communities, and replicate the
outcomes produced when I worked on this issue as a UK minister. We reduced domestic violence in the UK by 64%, and the economic cost saving was £7.1
billion per year.The Secretary-General added: Our new bench books on violence against women provide guidance to judges in Asia and East Africa.
They are designed to help judges make the right decisions, and to promote a greater understanding of violence against women, and the many forms it
takes. The bench books are a practical tool to help end the impunity and continuing tolerance of attitudes and behaviours that are wholly
unacceptable.The East African bench book identifies obstacles women reporting violence face in the justice system, such as bias in the court
room, victimisation and failure of the judiciary to apply and interpret existing laws.Its launch comes weeks before senior women leaders meet in
London to develop a Commonwealth manifesto and action plan on gender issues and equality, and follows consultations with judicial officials across East
Africa, who acknowledged gaps from a national and regional perspective.Discussions will focus on capacity building, law reforms, the
review of judgements in which legislative challenges have been identified, and dealing with victims, witnesses, counsel and the media. The role of
support networks such as the UN and NGOs, will also be highlighted.The book will be shared with judiciaries in the four Commonwealth East African
countries, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and will serve as best practice for other Commonwealth regions. There are plans to launch another
bench-mark book in Asia. The Secretariat will also provide technical assistance to member states to help the judiciary in East Africa adapt and
implement the recommendations in the book.Commonwealth gender expert, Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua, said: This resource will not only deepen the
understanding of violence against women, it will also raise awareness of the important role that judicial officials play in addressing this in the
region. Our aim is that officials in East Africa will use this book, and really adopt its guidelines and implement it in their work, so that women
and girls can be better protected against violence.