Tamwa Zanzibar’s Policy and Advocacy Manager Hawra Shamte made the proposal earlier this week when speaking ahead of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence—an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. This year’s global theme is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!”
She said that the proposal came after realising that there are heaps of cases in the ordinary courts which are yet to be dealt with, the situation that denies justice to the GBV victims.
She said having specialised courts provide a stronger possibility that court personnel will be gender-sensitive, experienced in the unique characteristics of violence against women cases, and may be able to process cases more quickly, reducing the burden on victims.
Citing some of the rape cases in Zanzibar, Hawra said that between July 2018 and June 2019, Mfenesini Regional Court registered 21 cases, but nine were worked on and only one person received seven years imprisonment. She said during the same period Vuga court worked on 21 cases, but only one received one-year imprisonment and 500,000/- compensation.
According to Hawra, at Mwera Court 25 cases were recorded and ten were judged and seven out of the ten cases were nullified. At Wete Court in Pemba 23 cases were registered and only four were worked on and the rest were nullified and Chake Court recorded 42 cases and only four were judged and the rest were annulled.
The official said that during the period a total of 192 were recorded in the courts, and 68 cases were judged, which is only 28 percent of total cases for the past one year.
“And out of the 68, 43 cases were annulled.”
She however said that data show that perpetuators of rape cases get few years of sentence despite the fact that regional courts have the room of providing a sentence of between seven and 14 years.
Citing other challenges facing the fight against GBV in Isles, Hawra said that cases take long time, with the pretext that police investigation were yet to be completed and most of the time case files get to the office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with a number of shortfalls, hence go back to police.
“This also denies GBV victims to get justice as at the end of the day the victims become discouraged and in turn the case are annulled,” she said.
She further said: “There are some magistrates who fail to complete GBV cases for different excuses, hence transfer cases to other magistrates, something which delays justices.”“That’s why we see it is important for GBV cases to be dealt with in separate systems.”
Around the world, special courts are particularly prevalent for domestic violence, where they allow for integration of a variety of legal processes including criminal, civil, and family law issues.
Specialised tribunals often are established to deal with cases of sexual harassment.
Some nations have also created specialised courts to deal with sexual assault and rape.
Specialised domestic violence courts have been established with positive results in countries around the world including Brazil, Nepal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, and several states in the USA.