In an effort to protect the dignity of the witnesses and enhance their confidenceto ably testify in court, the Office of the DPP is also to provide child–witness kits.
By Our Reporter
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) is to start prosecuting Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases in the “Fourth Phase of the Special SGBV Sessions” scheduled to commence on Monday, October 25, 2021.
There will be 14 sessions and SGBV cases are to be prosecuted in the High Courts of Kampala, Mbarara, Masaka, Tororo, Gulu, Kasese, Iganga, Moroto, Otuke, Adjumani and the Chief Magistrates Courts of Tororo, Busia, Apac and Nakapiripirit.
A total of 700 SGBV cases including aggravated defilement, rape, murder and simple defilement among others are to be prosecuted.
During these sessions, special consideration will be made by the Prosecution to ensure that the cases are handled in a victim–centred and trauma–informed manner.
During a media address, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions said, “Majority of the witnesses we handle are not only victims of domestic violence
but also sexual abuse. These crimes have left them physically, emotionally and psychologically traumatised. They need to be dealt with and handled with a lot of care especially when testifying in court.”
In her brief, Ms. Lucy Ladira, the Criminal Justice Advisor–Governance and Security/Access to Justice Program said, “Because of the strong cultural restrictions, some witnesses find it difficult to openly talk about sexuality. Besides, each home and tribe has a different name used to refer to sexual organs.”
Accordingly, the office of the DPP will use anatomical dolls in all the fourteen criminal sessions. Anatomical dolls are specially made with descriptive sexual reproductive parts. They are used in interviewing and leading evidence in court, of victims of crime in Sexual Gender Based Violence cases. The victims are able to illustrate how the sexual act occurred by use of these dolls without having to expressly mention the names of the sexual reproductive organs and without explaining the graphic details of how the sexual act was performed.
Ms. Lucy Ladira also said, “Most of the witnesses in sexual offences which form the bulk of the cases are children. Research shows that young children are better able to communicate through demonstration than through language and the dolls provide children with a road map of the body.”
In an effort to protect the dignity of the witnesses and enhance their confidenceto ably testify in court, the Office of the DPP is also to provide child–witness kits. These kits include items such clothes, pampers, sanitary towels, soap, toothpaste among other items. These will be given as and when the need arises.
In her brief, the Deputy Country Representative of UN Women Ms. Adekemi Ndieli said, “Provision of Sexual Reproductive Health items have ensured the cooperation and comfort of survivors in the prosecution of Violence Against Women and Girls cases.”
UN Women and UNFPA were appreciated by the Deputy DPP for their financial support towards ensuring that the sessions are successfully conducted and the Governance and Security Program Secretariat for their support toward the purchase of the anatomical dolls and child–witness kits.
It is envisaged that by the end of the sessions case backlog would have been reduced and justice dispensed to the vulnerable.