As cases of gender-based violence continue unabated, the ministry of justice created an environment that is friendly for victims to testify without fear.
Speaking at the opening of the first state-of-the-art GBV victim-friendly court yesterday at the Katutura Magistrate’s Court, justice minister Yvonne Dausab said the goal of these special arrangements is to make the process of going to court, which can be emotionally draining and quite intimidating to anyone, a little bit easier for victims who have already suffered enough trauma.
It is intended as an environment of compassion and safety.
“In creating a safer space for victims, this initiative seeks to ensure that those who have been wronged have access to justice, and specifically have access to a system of justice that will not cause them further suffering and secondary trauma,” she explained. The minister hopes the new victim-friendly court will lead to more victims seeking and obtaining justice.
“A court system that revictimises survivors of domestic violence to the point that survivors are unwilling to come forth and confront their abusers is not a just system,” stressed the minister.
These victim-friendly courtrooms and legislative changes such as the Combating of Domestic Violence and Combating of Rape Amendment Bill currently in parliament, are some of the ways government seeks to ease the burden of the victims of sexual violence and GBV.
“In the near future, we intend to refurbish the child-friendly facility with support from the private sector and other stakeholders to enhance the look and feel of that important waiting space,” said Dausab.
Speaking at the same event, Chief Justice Peter Shivute said the escalation of GBV has become a national concern.
Thus, it is essential that judicial officers, prosecutors, investigators, social workers and all those involved in the wheels of the criminal justice system are adequately equipped to deal with such cases.
“As a nation, we need to recognise that the world is moving at a fast pace, and we need to be able to keep up with the continuous changes to court infrastructures in order to maintain our goal of judicial excellence,” said Shivute.
The added renovations include but are not limited to conducting the trial in an alternative venue that will be less formal and less intimidating than a courtroom; re-arranging the furniture to accommodate special circumstances; and having systems in place to allow a witness to testify behind a one-way screen or by means of virtual testimony; as well as allowing a support person to accompany the witness during their testimony. -email@example.com