Women still waiting for justice. A revolutionary dispute resolution method: a community-based approach for the victims
Women still waiting for justice
A revolutionary dispute resolution method: a community-based approach for the victims
By M.A.Chandiwari Mallawa Arachchi
Legal officer – Department of Commerce, Sri Lanka
Picture credits: Photo: Eranga Jayawardena/ Press Association. All rights reserved
Women in South Asia have always been easy victims of all types of offences and crimes. You may find them with their children, maybe crying infants, outside of the Court Houses for a whole day waiting for their husband, who allegedly engaged with illegal occupation, to be given bail or to pay a fine to release them. You may find them inside the Court House, answering shameless questions asked by Lawyers regarding sexual harassment or rape perpetrated on them. You may find them waiting for justice in many other civil matters, even when it comes to feeding their children because society is reluctant to accept women as breadwinners, they always have to rely on male members of the family.
Women’s lives are always at risk: you can find out about a brutal murder of a woman or a girl anytime. Sexually abused or rapes survivors always find the second stage of victimization in the Adversarial Court System in Sri Lanka. The psychological harm to these women has tremendous effects on society. Although it is a fact that gender balance creates a better atmosphere, women are underrepresented in Judiciary. Even though there is nothing concrete to prove that appointing more women would rectify the current situation, a conscious policy of affirmative action in their favour needs to be implemented. Highly qualified women are being discouraged by many types of harassments in the work environment due to the male-dominated system in South Asian countries.
Lack of criminal justice, where an effective victim protection system should be available from the grass-roots level of society, had lead to swindle the “easy victim”. These victims are women in the hands of the Prosecutor, in a country like Sri Lanka, where the understanding among the government institutions is key. An effective community-based counselling service lead by the Government is key before reaching a level of a court-based counselling system.
The lack of knowledge of the Government role and non-government institutions among women had lead to an uneducated society, where the beneficiaries of all these much-needed services are behind the role of women in the community. As well as the reinforcement of the Victim Protections Laws, the community-based dispute resolution methods should be identified clearly and addressed effectively. Despite the personal laws(1) and territorial Laws governed on the Island, the traditional ethos and beliefs of the society do not let women come out of this situation.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Organization (SAARC), which has been in the region for more than 30 years, is the most suitable entity to initiate a mechanism to uphold the status of women in this part of the world. Due to the unreliability of the judiciary systems of each country member and the political corruption, the SAARC is not in a good position to protect human rights in the area. It is clear that the continuing failures when it comes to women and children’s rights create a barrier to progress, justice and democracy, and deprive the region of a significant source of human potential (2).
The English lawyer and judge Lord Denning said that social justice requires personal rights to be given priority over property rights (3). Furthermore, he emphasized that it is better to go by the principles underlying the legislative enactment rather than the outdated notions of the past (4).
The women in South Asian rural areas should have the knowledge related to social problems in today life. Basically, community-based dispute resolution methods need to be introduced with a considerable percentage of women participating in judge panels. Even in the court-based dispute resolution methods, women should be treated as gentle as the hand that rocks the cradle and rules the world.
(1) Author’s note: in Sri Lanka, there is one personal Law which is Muslim Law, and two territorial laws namely, Thesawalamei law and Kandyan Law.
(2) Report on achievements during the SAARC Decade of the Rights of the Child (2001-2010).
(3) Davis v. Johnson,(1978)1 All E.R.849. Author’s note: this is a case decided in India, Reported in All Indian Law Reports.
(4) National Provincial Bank v.Ainsworth,(1973)A.C.847. Author’s note: this case is decided in UK and a reported case.
Wilson, Bertha. “Will Women Judges Really Make a Difference?.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal 28.3 (1990): 507-522. http://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/ohlj/vol28/iss3/1
Chandi Mallawaarachchi is a Legal Officer at the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Finance, Economic and Policy Development in Sri Lanka.