Enhancing Access to Justice for Women and Girls, Through Technology
March 6, 2023
On 8th March, Uganda will commemorate International Women’s Day. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is delighted to join the global community in commemorating International Women’s Day 2023 and wishes all mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and sisters a happy and fulfilling day.
The day provides space to reflect on efforts and progress made to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. This year’s theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” must motivate us to embrace innovation and technology to improve delivery of services to the marginalised and/or vulnerable people as well as closing the gender-digital divide.
Uganda is making strides through various innovative solutions for advancing efficiency in the administration of justice and ensuring that women are not left behind. Administration of Justice faces gaps including case backlog, high rates of pre-trial detention, staffing gaps, low access to legal services, e.g. according to World Justice Project, there is one Lawyer to every 27,258 Ugandans. Women and girls face disproportionate challenges of limited knowledge of their rights and legal options, high cost of legal services, poverty, discrimination and insecurity - inhibiting their access to justice.
Transforming the administration of justice in Uganda
As we commemorate International Women’s Day, UNDP advocates for the embrace of inclusive and innovative justice measures to facilitate access to justice by all especially girls and women. These measures are in tandem with the agenda to transform the administration of justice as underscored by His Lordship, Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, Chief Justice of Uganda, during the 2023 New Law Year.
One such innovation in e-justice, is the Video Conferencing Facility that is revolutionising the handling of court proceedings. With the installation of this technology in the courts of Masaka, Mubende and Mbale, court hearings are carried out without transferring prisoners and detainees to court. Victims and witnesses have been able to effectively participate in court proceedings remotely using audio-visual links and they are protected as they give evidence without intimidation by perpetrators. This has prevented re-victimisation, especially of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) survivors, and reduced costs related to physical attendance in court. Additionally, Electronic Criminal Records Management System has contributed to a 17.2% reduction in case backlog. E-Systems have promoted speedy trials and therefore enhanced access to justice. Lawyers are now filing e-submissions online and cases are handled expeditiously.
Embracing innovative approaches in legal aid service provision
Innovative approaches in legal aid service provision have also been embraced. This includes legal aid mobile call centre operated by Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) and a toll-free line at the Judiciary that provides legal information to lawyers and the public. These enable women and girls, particularly victims of gender-based violence, to remotely access free legal aid services.
In efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and in this fourth industrial revolution era, digitization provides opportunities for women and girls to thrive. There is a need to bridge the gender digital divide through skills, data and equipment to enable women to harness ICT as a way of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.