By Pascal Kwesiga
JUDGES and lawyers address each other as learned friends. But a High Court Judge wonders whether they should continue to refer to each other as learned ‘brothers and sisters’ when they are ignorant of some legal fields.
“We are not learned brothers. We are ignorant of many international gender related instruments. We have gone through universities and LDC (Law Development Centre) but we are not aware of these laws,” Justice David Batema said.
Batema, who is a resident High Court Judge in Fort Portal, was discussing a paper on intimate partner violence at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday.
He explained that some Judges and Magistrates deliver ‘gender insensitive judgments’ because of their limited knowledge on gender issues and the existing laws to address gender based violence.
He noted that Uganda is praised for its highly ‘gender sensitive constitution’, but many women continue to suffer from gender related violence. Batema wants refresher training courses to be organized for judicial officers to improve their knowledge on gender issues and the attendant laws.
According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2011, 56% of women between the ages of 15 to 49 experience physical violence while 28% face sexual violence every year.
A total of 3,426 cases of domestic violence were reported to police in 2013 compared to 2,793 cases in 2012 representing an 18.4% increase, according to the 2013 police annual crime report.
The report also shows that a total of 1,042 cases of rape were also investigated in 2013 compared to 530 cases in 2012 hence an increase by 49%.
Commenting on the need for the promotion of alternative dispute resolution methods to reduce the case backlog in courts, the Judge said “There are judicial officials who pretend to promote reconciliation but they are gender insensitive,”