Improving Women’s Access to Justice

 

Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere. Reverend Martin Lutherking JR

Access to justice is a fundamental right. Thus, an adequate legal aid system is one of the prerequisites for access to justice. This acquires more significance in the context of developing countries due to higher levels of poverty, socioeconomic inequalities, and serious accessibility and affordability issues.

Its against this background that the Institute for Social Transformation (IST), in partnership with FIDA held Legal Aid Camps in Busia District, that provided free legal services to marginalized groups, especially women who could not afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any court, tribunal or before an authority.

The Camps, which were held in Busia also created awareness on women’s rights, in addition to providing pyscho social support to survivors of violence, creating awareness on structures for redress, providing a platform for community members to openly discuss issues that affect them, and helping women understand their challenges in a more appropriate and detailed manner.

The Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr. Adhola Otiti alongside the Assistant Chief Administrative officer (CAO), flagged off the Camp. Whilst giving his opening remarks, he urged participants to know their responsibilities and obligations as citizens of Uganda in order for them to understand and enjoy their rights. He also sensitized them about the various redress structures in their communities established by the Local Government Act to handle problems, such as the Women Council that address women issues.

RDC

The RDC Mr. Adhola Otiti giving his speech during the opening ceremony

Other issues that were at the heart of plenary sessions during the legal camps included: marriage – with participants being urged to legalise their unions so that they are protected by the law; matrimonial and joint property rights in a marriage; parental responsibilities, as well as domestic violence, its causes and consequences on the family and community at large.

Harriet Nabakama, a lawyer, facilitating one of the sensitization sessions

Besides, participants were made to understand the different structures within their communities where they can seek assistance when faced with problems. Examples given included: Women council, Local Council courts, Community Development offices, Police, probation office among others. Most of these participants preferred to keep quiet about their problems because they did not know where to report, but with this sensitization, they became aware of what to do when faced with a problem, with one of the women noting, “If I had known all these structures, I would not have suffered silently.”

One of the facilitators taking the participants through the different forms of marriages recognized in Uganda and the benefits that accrue with marriage

During the Private Consultations, 43 cases were registered. 33 from women and 10 from men on different issues such as land disputes, domestic violence, property sharing and family neglect among others. The IST Field Officer has been following them up to ensure that the survivors get the necessary help.

Over 111 people (85 women, 26 men) from Masafu, Dabani, Masinye, Bulumbi, Busia Municipality, and Buteba Sub Counties partook in this initiative.

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