Building a strong justice system to break the cycle of violence against women

For the first time in the Lao PDR, on May 26-27, key justice agencies came together to explore how they could fulfill their role in responding to and preventing violence against women.

Thirty two officials from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Security Department of Police, Office of the Supreme People’s Prosecutor, and the People’s Supreme Court gathered for a two-day training session on Gender and Violence Against Women in Vangvieng.

This training session follows the recommendations outlined in a detailed capacity needs assessment conducted across the sector last year by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on their capacity and readiness to implement the National Action Plan on Preventing and Eliminating Violence Against Women.

At this two-day training session, officials discussed how gender roles and norms perpetuate violence against women and agreed upon next steps in this journey to ending violence against women. Participants used digital tools and storytelling techniques to explore complex yet sadly familiar cases of gender biases, stereotypes, and violence.

“Coordination between and within our four agencies is especially important for the justice sector because whether a perpetrator is held accountable and the case of violence is processed successfully depends on how well we work together,” said Lothchana Khemthong, Director of the Justice Organisation Management Division, Ministry of Justice. “This is important as holding perpetrators accountable for their actions means upholding the rule of law, which will ultimately eliminate violence against women from society.”

In the Lao PDR, more than a third of women will experience at least one type of violence but just 2% will report.

“Usually, women seek justice services as a last resort, after other options have been tried, so the justice sector has an important role in ensuring survivors of violence can trust the government to protect them,” Mr. Seán O’Connell, UNDP Head of Governance, said, “UNDP is firmly committed to supporting the Justice Sector to fulfill their role in holding perpetrators accountable and send a message that violence will not be tolerated.”

In the coming months, the Justice Sector, guided by the international standards outlined in the Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence, will develop a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for responding to violence against women to be rolled out in pilot provinces. Under this SOP, each of the key justice agencies will outline their specific responsibilities, from questioning of suspects, collecting of evidence, provision of legal aid to survivors, prosecution of defendants, and sentencing for those convicted, to ensure coordination both within and across justice agencies.

Under the Khan Hom Project supported by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and in partnership with UNFPA, UNDP is supporting the implementation of the National Action Plan on Preventing and Eliminating Violence Against Women by justice agencies through strengthening coordination between agencies to ensure survivors get access to legal aid, police investigate cases and collect evidence to increase rates of prosecution and conviction of perpetrators, to ultimately break the cycle of violence.

Source: Lao News Agency