When spending time in a new place with a new culture, it’s best to spend some time being an observer, before jumping in with ideas and suggestions. You have to understand the people, the problems facing them, and the remedies they’ve attempted in order to offer any sort of suggestion of your own – or else, who are we as outsiders to interject or insist we have the answer?
Thus, we’ve spent the last few days trying to take things in, trying to hear from those on the front lines, judges, prosecutors, victim advocates, to understand what they’re dealing with. They might learn a few things from us, but we will learn a great deal from them in the process.
The judicial system here requires a great deal of patience. Months could pass between each stage of pre-trial and trial. Months that can lead to exhaustion of everyone involved, and even witness bribery, fright, and manipulation. The attorneys that we’ve talked to have done their best to work inside this system. They understand the importance of victim advocates in witness fatigue, the importance of a constant encouragement and supporter who will go with them through this lengthy process and prompt them to continue.
Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (G-WAVE) is hard at work here in a society that has yet to realize that women too have rights, and need protection until such equality is realized. We met a Family Court Judge yesterday, one of two in the province, that knows all too well the difficulties facing women in this society. She told us a few stories from her years here as a prosecutor, handling many disturbing and emotional rape cases, cases where young girls were often raped or molested by their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and other family members. She said that men here seem “sex-crazed” and they are dealing with the aftermath of this.
We have already been in the courtroom a few times for different stages of rape cases. Selecting photos for evidence, the pre-trial hearing where evidence was being submitted, what was supposed to be the direct examination of the victim but was postponed, again.
This morning we sifted through affidavits of an ongoing trafficking case which has yet to bring the accused to justice. Time has been an influence, tampered evidence, and witness bribery has kept this case from the fair trial it deserves. The system here has no juries, so a judge is left to weigh the evidence singlehandedly and there are definitely some judges more partial to males than others.
Tomorrow we will assist in getting some new photos to submit for evidence. A rape that took place in a shrouded area, hard to photograph. We will also be giving a lecture at a local college on the issue of domestic sex trafficking. Already, our time has been so enriching and fulfilling.