Oct 11, 2010 News
– Low conviction rate cited
Sexual violence against women is high across the Caribbean, with all CARICOM countries showing higher than the global average per capita rates. This is according to United Nation Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
UNIFEM disclosed that crisis centres report significant under-reporting of all forms of sexual violence as victims lack confidence in the administration of justice. “Women victims did not expect police sympathy and would only report with great reluctance.”
It was noted that apart from police action shortcomings, the legal framework for addressing sexual offences is uneven across the region and generally inadequate to meet the imperative of increasing state accountability and addressing impunity.
However, as a result of these deficits, conviction rates are uniformly low across the region; as low as one per cent of reported cases in one country where data was available.
In response, UNIFEM is implementing in partnership with the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police a project on “Strengthening State Accountability and Community Action for Ending Gender‐Based Violence in the Caribbean”. This project focuses specifically on reducing violence against women, through the strategies of increasing state actor competencies and strengthening accountability.
UNICEF declared that the developmental objective of the projects is to end gender-based violence through strengthened and responsive state and civil society actions.
According to UNIFEM, the purpose of the study is to understand the reasons for low conviction rates in respect of sexual assault, and to consider what legislative, procedural, policy, policing and prosecutorial changes might be considered; to make it more likely that offenders will be punished; and to minimise the trauma of the prosecution process for sexual assault victims.
In addition, the functioning of the court and DPP chambers and sentencing should also be considered and taken into account.
Low conviction rates for sexual assault offences may indicate a failure by the criminal justice system to uphold the rights of victims. And a study will investigate the various components of the prosecution process, such as police investigations, committal proceedings and the trial, as each could affect the outcome of a case and traumatise complainants, according to the report.
The reasons for low conviction rates for sexual offences UNIFEM noted have been cited as lack of proper policing, reporting and pursuing a complaint, and committal hearings collectively with the trial.
UNIFEM) is dedicated to advancing women’s rights and achieving gender equality. It provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies that foster women’s empowerment, while noting that it was the fundamental right of every woman to live a life free from discrimination and violence, and that gender equality is essential to achieving development and to building just societies.
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