What kind of societies are we living in where women and girls are subjected to sexual gender based violence (SGBV) without any hope of remedy, reparations or of seeing the perpetrators brought to justice? Survivors of SGBV face many challenges including a lack of knowledge within the community that legal options are available for survivors; cultural norms that discourage speaking publicly about sexual violence or causing trouble in the community; lack of medical and psychosocial support and a lack of sensitivity among legal officials—including police, lawyers and judges—to the unique needs of SGBV survivors.
Despite these challenges however there are women who are defying cultural norms and speaking out with the hope that someone will listen and take notice. See below two examples from Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic.
The women in these two videos should be encouraged by the fact that their voices are being heard and that there are people at the international level who are fighting for them. On the 25th June 2012 the UN Human Rights Council had a panel discussion on remedies and reparations for women who have been subjected to violence at its 14th Meeting at the 20th Session. The opening statement was given by Ms. Nevanetham Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, where she stated that the Nairobi Declaration on Women’s and Girl’s Right to a Remedy and Reparation was the cornerstone document on remedies and reparations for women survivors of violence.
The Declaration states that women can best be enabled to have access to reparations in the following way:
1) The full participation and just representation of women and girl victims in the reparation processes.
2) Adequate education of women and girls about their rights.
3) The removal of processes and procedures that make it difficult for women and girls to get justice. For instance issues such as the language used in the proceedings, the removal of the need for lawyers, the removal of the requirement to submit certain documents before the matter can be heard would make the proceedings easier for ordinary women.
4) In any process to address reparations individuals who have knowledge of women and girls rights and who are sensitive to women and girls’ dignity, privacy and safety in approaching certain sensitive issues such as rape should be appointed to be part of the process.
5) All programmes and processes must be evaluated using gender, age, human rights to monitor and evaluate their implementation to the needs of women and girls.
The Nairobi Declaration was created by a group of people including advocates and activists that work on issues related to the rights of women and survivors of sexual violence from Africa, Asia, Europe, Central, North and South America. It is however non-binding but it has gained recognition and builds on existing law and rights in the area of reparations, hopefully now that the UN is referring to the Declaration steps will be taken to make it binding.