International Development Law Organization

Taking a survivor-centred approach to gender-based violence

Monday, November 20, 2023

Across their lifetime, approximately one in three women globally face physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner. Yet, many never report cases or find justice. Those who do go to the police or courts often feel stigmatized or see their cases being rushed through or mishandled.

Survivor-centred approaches that provide integrated services, support women’s collective action and expand monitoring to uphold accountability are key to ensuring access to justice in GBV cases.

The 2022 IDLO research report Survivor-Centred Justice for Gender-Based Violence in Complex Situations, published in partnership with the Global Women’s Institute at George Washington University, highlights the importance of tailoring responses to women’s needs while respecting international norms and legal obligations around gender equality and human rights. Through case studies from Afghanistan, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Sudan and Tunisia, the research provides guidance on adopting effective justice strategies centred on survivors. It urges policymakers, justice professionals and other practitioners to take measures grounded in gender-responsive laws and judicial institutions and to apply intersectional approaches to meet diverse needs.

One key to a survivor-centred approach is having courts dedicated to cases of sexual and gender-based violence. In 2022, IDLO supported the establishment and operationalization of a specialized Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) Court at the Shanzu Magistrates Court in Mombasa, Kenya. It became the first court expressly dedicated to hearing cases of SGBV in East Africa.

Since its inception, the Court has offered services to 448 justice seekers. Court hearings have gained momentum, resolving an increasing number of cases and giving more women confidence that they can seek and access justice.

Having more women on the bench and throughout the justice chain can also make a difference for victims of SGBV. Yet, the number of women in the judiciary remains low. IDLO is helping to close the gap by supporting policies to accelerate gender equality. It has developed a strategy to introduce gender-friendly policies in Kenya’s judiciary, covering measures such as establishing dedicated gender and human resources offices. IDLO also partners with the International Association of Women Judges to mentor young women wishing to pursue a career in justice.