AWAVA commits itself to supporting work that are geared towards integrating the understanding of sexual violence into domestic and family violence prevention and response, which includes access to justice. We believe that all aspects of the legal process must be accessible and responsive to the ongoing needs of women and children who have been subjected to violence.
Gender inequality and the unequal power dynamics between women and men results in women facing a range of social and economic discrimination. Women’s access to justice is impacted by gender inequality and the social and economic disadvantages experienced by women. Women have less access to information about their rights, have more difficulty obtaining legal services, and are more likely to experience financial insecurity, which impacts on their access to legal support and leads to difficulty in navigating court systems. Women living with violence often face increased social and economic marginalisation. This results in them facing additional barriers in accessing legal services, thereby restricting their ability to use the legal system to seek protection or to uphold their rights and re-establish their lives after having left a violent relationship.
While significant steps have been undertaken to improve the legal system’s responsiveness and establish stronger safeguards for women and children experiencing and at risk of experiencing violence, it still does not deal well with some aspects of violence against women and children. In many instances, women and children still face significant barriers in accessing justice, and shortcomings of the justice system often continue to fail them. As a result, they are often re-traumatised and placed at a heightened risk of further violence or death. In addition, important services that work to remove these barriers continue to be subject to funding shortages and harsh funding cuts, further limiting women’s and children’s ability to access justice and often resulting in adverse outcomes.
While this brief addresses sexual violence to some extent, it is focused predominantly on domestic and family violence and intimate partner violence. This reflects a broader imbalance in which policy-making, public debate and research are increasingly addressing domestic and family violence, while issues of sexual violence remain marginalised. We acknowledge that more work needs to be done to integrate understanding of sexual violence with wider efforts to eliminate violence against women and their children, and to raise the prominence of sexual violence within the national debate.