A Sensitive Mission in Justice
Violence against women remains one of the dangers to society and the rights of women all over the world today. According to a report from the WHO, one in three women experience physical and/or sexual violence that affects their personal life as well as the society in which they are living in. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, 35 percent of women who have been in a relationship have reported that they have experienced some form of violence from someone they know well such as their husband, boyfriend or a close relative. Only a few perpetrators are strangers and globally, as many as 38 percent of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. Moreover, many female victims do not report these violence to law enforcement.
A study of Southeast Asian women’s access to the justice system reveal the obstacles preventing women’s access to justice and note that many victims do not report the crime to law enforcement. Barriers to women’s access to justice can be categorized into 2 main sorts. One concerns the legal aspect, how society lacks sufficient laws regarding sexual violence. Legal institutions remain weak in terms of enforcing the law and there is shortage of acknowledgement of women’s rights in the justice system, with generalization prevalent. Institutions not only lack fundings to implement legal procedures dictated for women, but also lack departments and staff specific for assisting victims before, during, and after the attack.
Another barrier concerns the social and economical aspect. Women who fall victims are trapped in a patriarchal society, lack legal knowledge, and are uninformed of the legal process. They lack faith in the legal system and do not believe they can be helped. When sexual violence arises, victims in this victim-blaming culture are subject to social stigmas in which her personal choices, such as the way she dresses, are criticized, blaming her for the attack. Many of these victims are poor and illiterate.
Furthermore, some victims also come from socially vulnerable groups including marginalized communities, minority groups, and the prostitution industry.
In Thailand, women who fall victim to sexual and physical violence face similar obstacles in accessing justice. Therefore, in order to help these women, and raise awareness and increase the general public’s understanding of the laws and legal procedures involved as well as of the situation, particularly in gender fragilities, while also creating a network in groups of male and female legal assistants and those working in the justice system, TIJ’s Women and Children Empowerment Unit collaborated with the Foundation for Women, Law, and Rural Development (FORWARD) and Chiangmai University’s Department of Women’s Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, to host the practical Paralegal Training-Workshop: “Women for
Justice; Justice for Women,” held for the second consecutive year this 2018.
The target audience of this practical training workshop are officers involved in women’s access to justice such as personnels assigned to help women and children victims of violence according to the Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act, BE 2007. Personnels include psychologists, social workers, investigators, prosecutors, administrators, as well as local leaders, government volunteers, orphanage workers, correctional officers, lawyers, nurses from the One Stop Crisis Center, community developers from the private sector. Carried out in Central, Northern, Northeastern, and Southern Thailand with 30 audiences in each division, the project also aims to increase the amount of female legal assistants.
This training includes workshops, lectures, and case studies concerning gender concepts and sexual violence, the mechanism of the justice system, procedures and basic laws involving women. The learning framework is designed for participants to get to know themselves, by acknowledging who they are and what experiences and backgrounds they have. Participants will learn to understand the society in which they are living in, understanding gender inequalities that exist in society, for example cases of privilege and power sources in structural violence, as well as knowing the laws and justice system regarding women. Workshop participants are also required to be present and aware, to listen deeply in order to help solve personal issues as well as to effectively help women and children in the future.
Removing barriers to women’s rights in the justice system will require the development of legal and judicial tools through serious coordination between the governmental and civil society sectors. This training workshop on legal knowledge and women’s access to the judicial system is another activity that TIJ will continuously host to encourage the rights, dignity, and empowerment of women, further strengthening females of our generation and increasing women’s access to justice.