ADB Law and Policy Reform Program
Asian Development Bank
 

Asia-Pacific Conference on the Promotion of Gender-Responsive Judicial Systems

 

The conference convened justice sector actors and other stakeholders to discuss approaches to strengthening the formal justice systems’ responses to violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the Asia and the Pacific region, and identified common gaps and barriers, good and promising practices and successful outcomes, and shared regional knowledge on better handling and adjudication of VAWG cases. Participants comprised of judges, prosecutors, lawyers, government officials, civil society organizations, academia, development partners and other interested parties.  

Globally, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical, sexual, psychological and other forms of violence. In the Asia and the Pacific region, the prevalence of violence against women and girls is also high, with women and girls in the Pacific Island countries facing some of the highest rates of violence globally. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated VAWG and they are facing even higher rates of violence. This harsh reality persists despite laws to protect women and girls against violence. For example, survivors face harmful gender discrimination, bias and stereotyping, social stigma, and inadequate institutional mechanisms to provide them with adequate protection under the formal justice system.

Furthermore, they face other access to justice issues such as low literacy; limited awareness or knowledge of women’s and girls’ rights, cultural and social norms that excuse violence against women or discourage survivors from pursuing formal justice remedies; lack of support from family members and community leaders; and insufficient support services. Evidence and experience suggest that laws alone are not enough to eliminate VAWG and capacity of formal justice sector personnel and stakeholders responsible for handling and adjudicating VAWG cases need to be strengthened, as well as institutional mechanisms to deal effectively and efficiently with VAWG cases. Additionally, complementary tools for increasing legal literacy and access to justice need to be utilized.  


Keynote Address

 
Justice Antonio BenjaminJustice Antonio Benjamin
Justice, National High Court of Brazil

Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin discussed gender issues within and outside of the judiciary. Justice sector actors must ensure that women’s rights are fully respected and implemented. By the same token, judges and judicial institutions must take an introspective stocktake and assess how they treat women colleagues.

Opening Ceremony

 
Mereseini RakuitaMereseini Rakuita
Principal Strategic Lead, Pacific Community

Ms. Mereseini Rakuita discussed the barriers that work against women and girls’ effective participation in court processes, as well as key recommendations to address these challenges. Transformative change needs transformative solutions. Reform must be multipronged, multi-layered, and result from consultative engagement processes.

 
Munkhtuya AltangerelMunkhtuya Altangerel
Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme

Ms. Munkhtuya Altangerel spoke of women empowerment initiatives in the Timor-Leste context, including parliamentary quotas and gender-responsive budgeting. She also emphasized that while the COVID-19 pandemic magnified systemic issues, it has also presented a greater opportunity to advocate for the rights of women and girls.

 
Bruce GosperBruce Gosper
Vice-President (Administration and Corporate Management), Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Mr. Bruce Gosper spoke about ADB's critical role in promoting gender equality and gender-responsive judicial systems in the Asia-Pacific region. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ADB has put greater emphasis on mitigating disproportionate impacts on women and girls and on addressing pervasive gender inequalities (such as unpaid care and gender-based violence [GBV]) by strengthening specialized clinics and telephone assistance hotlines for survivors. Under the Office of the General Counsel's Law and Policy Reform Program, ADB works with judges, magistrates, and prosecutors on developing customized capacity building programs and specialized knowledge resources, as well as exploring special mechanisms for more effective and efficient handling of GBV cases.

Setting the Scene: Overview of Violence Against Women and Girls in Asia and the Pacific

 
Samantha Hung

Samantha Hung
Chief of Gender Equality Thematic Group, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Ms. Samantha Hung underscored ADB’s commitment to effectively address gender-based violence (GBV), a critical component underpinning the bank’s gender equality work. She also gave an overview of ADB policies, strategies, and initiatives to advance gender equality, such as integrating considerations of women’s safety in project designs; incorporating GBV response into quick-disbursing pandemic response budget support; and technical assistance projects that aim to address access to justice barriers and strengthen the formal justice sector.

Abigail Erikson

Abigail Erikson
Senior Advisor, Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, United Nations Women
Ms. Abigail Erikson gave an overview of how gender discrimination and inequality underpin violence against women and girls across the world. She also discussed access to justice barriers in the Asia-Pacific context and gave a three-point recommendation to address these challenges: (i) a stocktake of gender discriminatory attitudes, (ii) access to quality and essential services, and (iii) ensuring that women and girls know where and how to get help.

Plenary Session 1: Addressing Gender-based Violence in the Formal Justice System – Regional and International Perspectives

 

This session identified gaps, barriers and solutions to achieve fair and effective protection of women and girls in the formal justice system. Discussions included how to ensure victim’s dignity in the legal-judicial process, provide effective protection measures to minimize repercussions and remove fear, and reparation to rebuild lives post violence.

Zarizana Abdul Aziz

Moderator: Zarizana Abdul Aziz
Gender and Human Rights Lawyer and Adjunct Professor, George Washington University
 

 

Hon. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah

Hon. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah discussed the Pakistan Supreme Court decision in Atif Zareef v. The State. Disregarding gender stereotypes and emphasizing the importance of evidence in sexual offense cases, the Supreme Court anchored its analysis on the constitutional right to dignity. Justice Shah also discussed the issue of compensation, which courts must look at more holistically, with due consideration to a victim-survivor’s employment needs, economic loss, and psychological and mental trauma.

Genoveva Tisheva

Genoveva Tisheva
Member - Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW]), Managing Director - Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, Chairperson - Alliance for Protection from Gender-Based Violence
Ms. Genoveva Tisheva discussed the framework under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which is the principal source of international standards concerning women's rights, dignity, autonomy, economic independence, and empowerment. She also highlighted several cases on gender-based violence considered by the CEDAW Committee through the communication procedure under the Optional Protocol, along with the relevant General Recommendations (Nos. 19, 33, and 35).

Miliana T. Tarai

Miliana T. Tarai
Legal Services Manager, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC)
Ms. Miliana T. Tarai discussed nine reasons that drive victim-survivors of gender-based violence away from the formal justice system and cause them to lose confidence in the judicial process. She likewise outlined FWCC’s legal reform initiatives aimed at correcting systemic issues.

Tevita Seruilumi

Tevita Seruilumi
Family and Sexual Violence and Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion Adviser Justice Services for Stability and Development, Papua New Guinea
Mr. Tevita Seruilumi discussed two interrelated pathways to promote gender-sensitive judicial systems. First, the capacity of justice sector actors—police officers, lawyers, prosecutors, and the judiciary—must be strengthened. Second, domestic violence must be addressed as a serious crime. Lenient approaches towards domestic violence perpetrators are an ongoing issue in the Pacific, as domestic violence continues to be viewed as a minor offense.

Andy Yentriyani

Andy Yentriyani
Chairperson, Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women(Komisi Nasional Anti Kekerasan terhadap Perempuan / Komnas Perempuan)
Ms. Andy Yentriyani discussed Indonesia's Anti-Sexual Violence Law, 2022, and the measures adopted therein to support an integrated criminal justice system. These measures include (i) protection of victims of online sexual violence, (ii) prohibition to sue for defamation victim-survivors who allege or report cases of sexual violence, and (iii) the prerequisite for law enforcers investigating sexual violence offenses to be trained specifically with a human rights and gender perspective. She also discussed various measures that Komnas Perempuan has endorsed to protect the dignity of victim-survivors and strengthen their access to justice.

Emily Morrison

Emily Morrison
Consultant, Sustainable Solutions Timor-Leste, UNDP Timor-Leste
Ms. Emily Morrison expounded on how courts can effectively protect victim-survivors of gender-based violence. She underscored that clear guidelines and victim support, as well as a monitoring mechanism to ensure effective implementation of policy, are crucial. Support to victim-survivors can come in the form of reparation, although how exactly reparation is carried out is critical.

Laura Arboleda Gutiérrez

Facilitator: Laura Arboleda Gutiérrez
Qualified lawyer (Colombia) and Master of Public Policy candidate, The London School of Economics and Political Science
 

 

Session 1 Panel

Plenary Session 2: Good Practices in Increasing Confidence in the Formal Justice System – Regional and International Approaches

 

This session presented initiatives implemented by judicial systems to increase access to justice, e.g. specialized GBV judges and prosecutors, mobile courts, fast-tracking, victim-centered approach and online testimony and hearings. It also featured capacity-building programs of justice personnel—during COVID-19, along with notable advocacy tools such as videos and illustrations.

Hon. Dr. Robyn Layton AO QC

Moderator: Hon. Dr. Robyn Layton AO QC
Former Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia and Adjunct Professor, University of South Australia
 

 

Hon. Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai

Hon. Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai
Supreme Court of Nepal
Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai gave an overview of Nepal's legal framework, identifying three parallel developments that contributed to a more progressive and gender-responsive judicial system. He also explained how sexual offenses are dealt with under Nepal’s new codes, and how gender justice is achieved for women and girls in practice. Finally, Justice Bhattarai discussed the way in which compensation, particularly in relation to GBV, is addressed during the sentencing process. He underscored that compensation is now an overarching concept in criminal justice, requiring consideration of the victim’s perspective.

Hon. Judge Robyn Tupman

Hon. Judge Robyn Tupman
District Court of New South Wales, Australia, Secretary Treasurer - The International Association of Women Judges
Judge Robyn Tupman discussed the setup, implementation, and effectiveness of the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot Scheme in New South Wales, Australia. The program introduced a process whereby all evidence of children—not just evidence in chief, but all evidence—would be prerecorded and dealt with as quickly as possible. The resulting product would then be played as the evidence of that witness at the trial. Judge Tupman also highlighted the resources required to ensure that the system is effective, both in terms of judges and support staff.

Hon. Judge Shazib Saeed

Hon. Judge Shazib Saeed
District and Sessions Judge/Director General, Case Management, Lahore High Court/Visiting Faculty, Punjab Judicial Academy, Pakistan
Judge Shazib Saeed shared his experience with setting up the first gender-based violence (GBV) court in Lahore, Pakistan. In one year, the GBV court in Lahore yielded significant success, fast‑tracking the resolution of GBV cases and increasing the conviction rate for rape cases four‑fold, from 4.25% to 16.5%, with more gender sensitive approaches and processes.

Rea Abada Chiongson

Rea Abada Chiongson
Senior Legal Adviser on Gender, International Development Law Organization
Ms. Rea Abada Chiongson discussed an upcoming research report on access to justice in complex contexts, including the overlapping challenges posed by the health pandemic, natural disasters, conflict, fragility, legal pluralism, and organized crime. Central themes that emerged relate to specialized mechanisms or units (e.g., specialized courts); the role of protection orders and women professionals in building confidence in the justice system; and specialized mechanisms for data collection and review.

Jargalan Avkhia

Jargalan Avkhia
Field Program Manager–Mongolia, International Development Law Organization
Ms. Jargalan Avkhia talked about IDLO's Strengthening the Response to Gender-Based Violence in Mongolia Project, which aims to enhance access to justice for victims of domestic violence by incorporating a victim-centered approach. Concrete recommendations from the trial monitoring research relate to victim’s safety and her rights to access information and compensation. In terms of the justice chain research, recommendations relate to (i) providing legal assistance to indigent victims, (ii) employing victim-centered approach mechanisms by treating survivors with care and compassion, (iii) strengthening the capacity of justice sector actors on specific needs and vulnerabilities of domestic violence survivors, and (iv) preventing victim-blaming and gender stereotypes.

Samar Minallah Khan

Samar Minallah Khan
Communications and Behavior Change Specialist and International Filmmaker
Ms. Samar Minallah Khan shared her overall approach to addressing gender-based violence through prevention strategies, informed by her background as an anthropologist and documentary filmmaker. With regard to building the capacity of judges and prosecutors, Ms. Khan observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the training landscape. She discussed the importance of harnessing technology to reach out to justice sector actors, such as through interactive e-modules that have various elements—e.g., visuals, podcasts, explainer videos, quizzes—to sustain the learner's or viewer’s interest.

Nikita Singh

Facilitator: Nikita Singh
Qualified lawyer (Australia) and Master of Public Policy candidate, The London School of Economics and Political Science

 

Session 2 Panel

Breakout Session 3A: Concurrent Breakout Session for Judges

 

Judges from Asia and the Pacific region and beyond shared their experiences in adopting good practice measures applying gender perspectives in adjudicating GBV cases, and discussed specialized mechanisms, judicial tools, and knowledge resources.

Hon. Dr. Robyn Layton AO QC

Session Moderator: Hon. Dr. Robyn Layton AO QC
Former Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia and Adjunct Professor, University of South Australia
 

 

Hon. Chief Justice Kamal Kumar

Hon. Chief Justice Kamal Kumar
Supreme Court of Fiji
Chief Justice Kamal Kumar shared notable legislative measures and court processes in Fiji that afford protection to women and girl victim‑survivors and strengthen their access to the formal justice system. First, Fiji has a comprehensive set of laws on sexual offenses, primary of which is the Domestic Violence Act 2009. Second, vulnerable victim-survivors and witnesses are afforded protections in the courtroom. Third, the creation of a sex offenders register allows government authorities to quickly retrieve information about the identity of sex offenders, his personal details (e.g., passport details and active social media accounts), and how sexual offense cases were resolved. Fourth, the no-drop policy, which came into effect in 2020, mandates that the police adopt a zero-tolerance policy on GBV. Fifth, capacity development for members of the judiciary is crucial.

Hon. Judge Robyn Tupman

Hon. Judge Robyn Tupman
District Court of New South Wales, Australia, Secretary Treasurer - The International Association of Women Judges
Hon. Judge Robyn Tupman shared the setup, implementation, and effectiveness of the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot Scheme, 2015 in New South Wales, Australia.

Hon. Justice Vui Clarence Nelson

Hon. Justice Vui Clarence Nelson
Supreme Court of Samoa and Member, Committee on the Rights of the Child (Convention on the Rights of the Child)
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Hon. Justice Hima Kohli

Hon. Justice Hima Kohli
Supreme Court of India
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Hon. Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting

Hon. Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting
Supreme Court of the Philippines
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Maria Cecilia T. Sicangco

Facilitator: Maria Cecilia T. Sicangco
Senior Legal Officer, ADB
 

Session 3A Panel

Breakout Session 3B: Concurrent Breakout Session for Prosecutors

 

Prosecutors from the Asia and the Pacific region and beyond discussed issues and challenges in investigating and handling violence against women and girls cases and shared experiences in adopting good practice measures.

Zarizana Abdul Aziz

Moderator: Zarizana Abdul Aziz
Gender and Human Rights Lawyer and Adjunct Professor, George Washington University
 

 

H.E. Dr. Alfonso Lopez

H.E. Dr. Alfonso Lopez
Prosecutor General, Timor-Leste
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Hon. Justice Sandi McDonald

Hon. Justice Sandi McDonald
Supreme Court of South Australia and former Acting Director of Public Prosecutions
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc eu mattis nisi. Morbi consectetur, ex pulvinar ullamcorper fringilla, diam mauris bibendum erat, vitae molestie lacus lorem sed turpis. Donec quis egestas sem, id luctus magna. Integer porttitor iaculis turpis in aliquam. Vivamus vitae dapibus augue.

Shyamala Alagendra

Shyamala Alagendra
Gender Advisor, United Nations Sri Lanka Accountability Team, Former Prosecution Trial Lawyer, International Criminal Court, and Former Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Fiji
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Lea Halberstein

Facilitator: Lea Halberstein
Juris Doctor (JD) candidate, Northeastern University School of Law

Session 3B Panel

Breakout Session 3C: Concurrent Breakout Session for Victim/Survivor Advocates and Civil Society Organizations

 

Participants exchanged experiences in adopting good practice measures applying gender perspectives and standards of practice and guidelines in violence against women and girls cases and discuss examples to improve the formal judicial system.

Kate Eastman AM SC

Moderator: Kate Eastman AM SC
Human Rights Lawyer
 

 

Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh
Executive Director, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement
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Bárbara de Oliveira

Bárbara de Oliveira
Partner, JU,S, Jurídico Social Consultoria, Timor-Leste
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc eu mattis nisi. Morbi consectetur, ex pulvinar ullamcorper fringilla, diam mauris bibendum erat, vitae molestie lacus lorem sed turpis. Donec quis egestas sem, id luctus magna. Integer porttitor iaculis turpis in aliquam. Vivamus vitae dapibus augue.

Liliwaimanu Vuiyasawa

Liliwaimanu Vuiyasawa
Gender and Child Care Consultant, Gender Economic Inclusion Group, International Finance Corporation
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc eu mattis nisi. Morbi consectetur, ex pulvinar ullamcorper fringilla, diam mauris bibendum erat, vitae molestie lacus lorem sed turpis. Donec quis egestas sem, id luctus magna. Integer porttitor iaculis turpis in aliquam. Vivamus vitae dapibus augue.

Henry Cornwell

Liliwaimanu Vuiyasawa
Gender and Child Care Consultant, Gender Economic Inclusion Group, International Finance Corporation
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc eu mattis nisi. Morbi consectetur, ex pulvinar ullamcorper fringilla, diam mauris bibendum erat, vitae molestie lacus lorem sed turpis. Donec quis egestas sem, id luctus magna. Integer porttitor iaculis turpis in aliquam. Vivamus vitae dapibus augue.

Nelania Sarmento

Facilitator: Nelania Sarmento
Communications and Liaison Officer (Consultant), ADB

 

 

Zhansaya Imanmadiyeva

Facilitator: Zhansaya Imanmadiyeva
Master of Public Policy candidate, Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo

 

Session 3C Panel
 

 

News and Multimedia

 

News Release: ADB Convenes First-Ever Asia-Pacific Conference on Gender-Responsive Judicial Systems

On 23 May 2022, Bruce Gosper, ADB Vice-President (Administration and Corporate Management) delivered opening remarks highlighting the role of the formal justice system in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls to a hybrid audience attending in Fiji and virtually.

Video: Memories of the Fiji Asia-Pacific Conference on the Promotion of Gender-Responsive Judicial Systems

Video montage of the Fiji Asia-Pacific Conference on the Promotion of Gender-Responsive Judicial Systems.

Photos: Asia-Pacific Conference on the Promotion of Gender-Responsive Judicial Systems

Photos from the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Promotion of Gender-Responsive Judicial Systems held on 23 May 2022 at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji.