Justice, Jurisprudence, Access and Accountability in Zambia (JJAAZ)
In Zambia, judges and magistrates lack the instant access to recent developments in human rights law that Western judges often take for granted. In fact, it is rare for a member of the Zambian judiciary to receive training on forensic evidence issues or to have an opportunity to reflect on procedural or evidentiary barriers that impede access to justice for survivors. In light of this reality, from 2009 to 2012, the IAWJ and its local affiliate, the Zambian Association of Women Judges (ZAWJ), have worked diligently to close this knowledge gap through a comprehensive program called Justice, Jurisprudence, Access and Accountability in Zambia (JJAAZ). This program, funded by the United Nations Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women, has focused on reducing the prevalence of violence against women (VAW) by: identifying and providing recommendations for removing obstacles to women and girls' access to
justice; training judicial officers and prosecutors to increase their knowledge, skills and outlook towards VAW; and creating feedback loops between judges, magistrates, health specialists who treat victims of gender based violence (GBV), prosecutors, law enforcement officials and members of non-profit organizations working on GBV issues.
The JJAAZ judicial trainings took place in the form of interactive sessions that brought together female and male judicial officers at different levels of the judiciary to explore gaps in the law. These trainings also concentrated on the various methods local judges and magistrates can use to avoid bias and stereotypes as well as the requisite steps judicial officers may take within the existing statutory framework to improve justice for GBV victims. The discussions focused on cutting-edge substantive, procedural, forensic and evidentiary issues in sexual assault cases, domestic violence, property rights, intestate succession and HIV/AIDS.
The success of the JJAAZ judicial trainings has directly created legal precedents on the right to equality, freedom from discrimination and justice for victims of GBV. As a result of the JJAAZ program, perpetrators of sexual assault have been convicted and sentenced appropriately; women have been granted an equal share of marital property upon divorce; and widows' rights to a fair share of their late husband's property have been recognized. Magistrates and judges who took part in the JJAAZ trainings are issuing novel case-law, creating victim-friendly courts, being sensitive to the needs of GBV victims who come before their courts, recognizing and changing gender stereotypes in law and society, and applying international human rights instruments ratified by Zambia to resolve issues of GBV and discrimination. The wealth of judicial knowledge created by the JJAAZ program has trickled down to other law enforcement personnel such as when magistrates share what they have learned in their training with other stakeholders, including prosecutors and police, on the elements of sexual assault and evidence required to convict perpetrators of GBV.
The JJAAZ program has received nation-wide attention in Zambia, including notable recognition by
Former President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Rupiah Banda, who stated,"I understand that as a result of the judicial trainings conducted under the [IAWJ and ZAWJ's JJAAZ] Program, there is a marked improvement in the quality of decisions in cases of gender violence and sexual abuse. There has
also been an increase in convictions in cases of defilement which, sadly, are still prevalent in our society."