WOMEN from various institutions and organizations that comprise and contribute towards the justice system in the country had for the first time gathered together to mark International Women’s Day, Thursday.
The ‘Women in Law’ breakfast event was held yesterday morning at the Heritage Park Hotel.
Guest speaker at the event, our first female local Judge, Maelyn Bird said, it has been rare for ‘women in the justice sector’ to come together and acknowledge the contribution of women to the justice sector.
“But I think it is important and timely that we do so because the justice system has a fundamental role to play in our country’s effort,” Judge Bird said.
The Justice Sector Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Strategy was also introduced at that event.
Judge Bird said the increasing participation of women in the justice sector, including at senior levels can make an important contribution to the goal of gender equality.
“But I also see the justice sector as having a fundamental role to play in addressing one of the key impediments to gender equality, and that is the prevalence of sexual and family violence.
“While sexual and domestic violence are not only experienced by women and girls, I am sure no one will dispute that women and girls disproportionately affected by these crimes.”
Judge Bird said that as a judge on the High Court, she had become increasingly aware of and concerned by cases of sexual assault, many of them perpetrated by family members against children.
She said the fact that people are coming forward to report the cases is really important, as is their willingness to testify in court.
Judge Bird said that as she had remarked in some of her judgments, the police and the courts cannot address these issues on their own.
She then reiterated her call for the executive to look at what more can be done to prevent the occurrence of these times in the first place, and to take the necessary step.
“As a lawyer, I have also been confronted by the prevalence of domestic violence, and the needs of women who seek protection from domestic violence.
“And in fact, it has not been just the experience of my clients, but also myself.
“I stand before you as someone who has survived domestic violence.”
Judge Bird then add on to say that with these personal and professional experience, she was pleased to see the elected leaders of our country take the important step in 2014 of the passing of the Family Protection Act.
“This is a welcome and important reform.”
She said enacting a law does not automatically lead to effective implementation and enforcement.
Judge Bird said she lamented the lack of awareness by many women to this day of their rights to freedom from violence and their rights to protection from violence.
“I see the need for much more work to be done in this area.
“This awareness must meet women where they are, not just those of us lucky to have an education.”
Judge Bird said she understood that these issues are at the forefront of current initiatives by the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, including the Justice Sector Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Strategy, and the review of the Family Protection Act.
“I encourage everyone to get involved in these important endeavours.”
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN BONGIDANI