International Development Committee
Review of Effectiveness of UK Aid
Written Evidence Submitted by International Justice Mission
What works to end violence against women and girls
IJM would like to commend the DFID-funded global research initiative, “What Works to End Violence Against Women and Girls” and recommend that this project be supported and expanded.
“What Works,” provides essential information to government officials, health and human rights practitioners, scholars, and policy makers seeking to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. It seeks to identify and analyse effective, evidence-based approaches and disseminate those learnings globally. Through “What Works,” DFID has funded multiple reviews of evidence from programmes around the world and made recommendations for design and implementation of investments to counter violence against women and girls in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
For example, the 2019 Global Evidence Review of Interventions to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls evaluates a large number of approaches, including norm change activities with men and boys, economic interventions, school-based initiatives, addressing alcohol and substance abuse.9 The evidence review is building excellence and effectiveness in DFID’s and other aid agencies’ investments by rigorously evaluating interventions.
Rule of Law in tackling Violence Against Women and Children
IJM believes, based on the work that we do, that key improvements in criminal justice over time can reduce violence against women and children. Access to justice and perpetrator accountability are named in INSPIRE, RESPECT, and the UN Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence as critical interventions, but specific investments in this sector has not been studied for “What Works.”
IJM encourages DFID to include in “What Works” monitoring and evaluation of programmes to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement, courts, and social welfare systems in lower-to-middle income countries.
The role of criminal justice systems to address violence against women and girls has been neglected within development circles, perhaps because they function so poorly – particularly with respect to vulnerable populations – that few believe that progress is possible. Those who abuse women and girls – through domestic violence, sexual assault, online sexual exploitation – do so with near complete impunity in many lower-income countries.
Yet through IJM’s experience working within the criminal justice sector to combat violence against women and girls over the past twenty years, we have found that progress is possible.
In Guatemala, for example, where IJM has collaborated with police, prosecutors and courts to investigate and prosecute sexual assault of children (SVAC), an IJM-conducted baseline and endline study of criminal justice capacity showed significant improvement in the Guatemalan Government’s response to cases of SVAC. The baseline review of included cases of SVAC over a 4-year period, 2008-2012.
An endline study of the period 2012-2016 in Guatemala revealed the following:
- the number of SVAC complaints filed increased by 136% increase (which suggests increased public confidence in the local justice system)
- the number of SVAC indictments increased by 157% • the number of SVAC cases reaching verdict nearly tripled during the project period (980 cases at baseline vs. 2,912 cases at endline)
- victim-friendly spaces for gathering victims’ testimonies were uncommon at baseline (30% of cases), it became nearly universal at endline (98% of cases)
- At endline, 80% of indictments fulfilled all the requirements of the law (Article 332 Bis), compared with 28% at baseline.
In Uganda, when IJM first began work in Uganda in 2004, over a third of widows reported that they had experienced attempts to take their land. A review of police files found that 37.8% of documented land grabbing cases in that area also included a charge of violent assault. 20% of women who had experienced land grabbing had experienced attempts on their lives or their children’s lives from the perpetrator. However, in 2017, a study was conducted which found nearly a 50% reduction in the prevalence of land theft and an increased knowledge among widows of their inheritance rights.
Violence against women and children is recognized by the UN General Assembly as an impediment to development and human flourishing.
The Sustainable Development Goals include Target 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation, Target 16.2: End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children, and Target 16.3: Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice.
Moreover, UN agencies have developed detailed and excellent recommendations for investigating and prosecuting violence against women and girls, including the Essential Services Package for Women and Girls subject to violence and the United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
However, few donors have invested in capacity-building for police, prosecutors, and courts in lower-income countries to implement these standards when they address crimes against women and girls. The UK Government, for example, is a leader in funding foreign assistance programmes aimed at increasing economic advancement for women and girls; however developing functioning criminal justice systems that investigate and prosecute perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence does not appear to have been a priority.
We believe that once successful, evidence-based strategies are identified and developed, national governments and major donor governments will invest in capacity-building initiatives to provide justice and protection for women and girls and accountability for perpetrators of crimes against them.
DFID’s “What Works” initiative could play an important role in researching, evaluating, and disseminating such initiatives, just as it has done for violence prevention initiatives.
IJM sees a desperate need for innovation in the development field to address the near total-impunity that perpetrators of violence against women and girls enjoy. There are few evidence-based approaches for criminal justice improvement, which discourages investment in that sector.
Recommendation: DFID should extend the “What Works” approach to include justice, protection, and accountability for perpetrators of violence against women and girls and to invest in proven strategies thereafter.
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