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Efforts needed to assist abused  Women access professional help

Efforts needed to assist abused Women access professional help

INCREASED and coordinated efforts are needed among stakeholders to break down current barriers and boost women's trust in the legal system to ensure that abused women seek professional help.

The remarks were issued in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday by the outgoing Ambassador of Sweden in Tanzania, Anders Sjoberg at the Gender Bench Book on Women's Rights Technical Working Session.

"Less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seek   legal assistance, and according to the most recent Tanzania Demographic Health Survey data from 2015–16, 29 per cent of women never seek assistance because they are ashamed or stigmatised," said Mr Sjoberg.

Furthermore, he said while statistics show that one in three women worldwide, and 40 per cent of women in Tanzania, have experienced gender-based violence, perpetrators often face no legal consequences.

Launched on October 28th last year by the President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the Gender Bench Book aims to provide an accessible, user-friendly reference guide for judicial officers in protecting the rights of women and girls.

"I am pleased to note that the Gender Bench Book on women's rights provides an opportunity to address the gaps. This book as a tool, will present judicial officers with local and international best practices and provide practical guidelines to address issues that hinder access to justice - especially for women," he said.

According to a UN Women 2020 report on Gender Equality: Women's rights in review 25 years after Beijing, there have been some notable gains and improvements to legal frameworks and justice systems in the past decade, where 131 countries enacted 274 legal and regulatory reforms in support of gender equality.

Despite the advancements, according to ambassador Sjoberg, the global justice sector's response to discrimination frequently falls short of what is necessary to combat gender-based violence, secure the safety and well-being of victims and survivors, and guarantee women's access to justice.

"As a critical step, we need this Gender Bench Book in the hands of judicial officers across the country, and we need to ensure that they are able to apply it effectively.

"Continuous rollout of the Bench Book, and ideas on how we can ensure that it remains a living document which addresses the adverse impact of discriminatory practices on women's access to justice is crucial," he noted.

UN Women Representative, Ms Hodan Addou, said there is a need to make the Bench Book accessible to justice actors across the country.

"We need effective strategies to roll out the Bench Book, and widely disseminate it in the country's 16 judicial zones so that it proves to be a useful tool for judges, magistrates, prosecutors, lawyers, human rights defenders, and all other key actors within the justice chain," she said

Justice Joaquine De-Mello, the chairwoman of the Tanzania Women Judges Association (TAWJA), stated that while women are making progress in the fields of education, entrepreneurship, employment, and politics, stereotypical social attitudes continue to pose a significant obstacle to the pursuit of gender-justice, parity, and balance.

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