According to the United Nations, 35 percent of women worldwide experience sexual or domestic violence in their lives. In order to discuss risks and solutions to this problem, the human rights organization International Justice Mission Deutschland e.V. (IJM) hosted a political reception in Berlin on 9 May 2022. The participating representatives from federal politics and civil society highlighted the multi-layered need for action in Germany and worldwide to sustainably protect women from violence. IJM urges German development cooperation to focus on stronger cooperation with justice systems in partner countries.
The reception was opened by Dr. Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. Kofler advocated putting women at the centre of development policy solution processes against gender-based violence: “Sustainable development cooperation is only possible if we do not ignore 50 percent of the population. If we want to promote development, we can only do it together with women.” This premise should be reflected in the upcoming Gender Action Plan of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Lack of legal protection promotes violence against women worldwide
However, Alice Muhairwe, head of IJM’s case work on violence against women in Uganda, explained that development cooperation has so far failed to take a concrete account of women’s incomplete access to legal systems: “Women in Uganda are insufficiently protected by current law, while violence against women is widely accepted in society. This is a structural gap that needs to be filled. Only in this way can existing programmes effectively and sustainably protect women and children from violence,” said Muhairwe.
In Uganda, one in three women is affected by domestic violence or sexual abuse. Since 2004, IJM has therefore been working in the East African country together with those affected and actors in the justice system to improve the protection of women through the judicial system. Funded by the BMZ and multilateral donors, IJM conducts, among other things, multidisciplinary, victim-centred training for actors in the Ugandan justice system.
Global protection needs reforms and action by society as a whole
Christa Stolle, Federal Managing Director of TERRE DES FEMMES e.V., described crucial gaps that endanger the protection of women in Germany. For example, women’s shelters have been understaffed and underfunded for many years. Comprehensive support for women is therefore necessary, especially in court proceedings.
IJM CEO Dietmar Roller discussed further solutions in Germany and worldwide with the members of the Bundestag Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker (CDU), Heike Engelhardt (SPD), Susanne Menge (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), as well as with Dr. Ursula Schäfer-Preuss (UN Women Germany) and the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy. They agreed that effective protection of women requires reforms in legal systems, social and educational measures, and the participation of actors at all levels of society.
International Justice Mission Deutschland e. V. is the German branch of the global human rights organization International Justice Mission (IJM), which works with governments and local authorities to improve legal systems to combat violence against people in poverty and guarantee their protection. Worldwide, IJM works at 33 locations in 23 countries with over 1,200 employees.