All too often, there is no justice for women and girls affected by violence.
But around the world, there are heroes in communities, law firms and police stations who are fighting to fix broken legal systems that protect abusers and punish survivors. These heroes include lawyers sacrificing their fees to help women access justice in Ghana and feminist school graduates in Jordan who are demanding change.
Will you join ActionAid in supporting campaigners across the world who are putting the power back in the hands of women and girls who survive violence?
The odds are stacked against women and girls who survive violence. Together with limited legal support, low resources and a fear of retribution, justice systems and social norms put women and girls off from reporting or pursuing crimes against them.
Governments let their justice systems put survivors of violence on trial. This could be through invasive medical examinations or by making them recount their sexual history in court.
In some cases, the violence committed against them doesn’t constitute a crime. Even when laws exist, survivors often don’t report violence because they are unable to access legal advice or lack the economic independence or support to speak out. And sometimes the law holds them as more culpable than their attacker, disbelieving women and charging them with adultery or even sentencing them to death.
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Irene is a lawyer in Ghana
Irene is a lawyer, and founder of the Ghana Legal Assistance Network, defending survivors of domestic violence. She’s also a member of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, a legal rights organisation focused on women’s rights and access to justice around the world. She’s seen just how hard it can be for women to access justice in Ghana.
“It’s not easy to come out as a survivor,” Irene says. “There is no system that will protect you from the public…from the moment you speak out, people start pointing fingers and saying you’re a bad girl, you’re a dirty girl.”
Irene is frustrated by the process of attempting to access justice in Ghana. “Ghana has one of the best domestic violence acts in the world – but when it comes to implementation it’s very frustrating,” she says. “If someone suffers abuse, the first place they need to go is a police station, but the police see it as normal. They think if nobody’s dead, nothing terrible has happened.”
Irene works with hundreds of survivors every year, subsidising 95% of the cost women need to go to court. But she knows more needs to be done. In the future, Irene wants the Ghanaian government to fully implement and fund their domestic violence act and provide free medical care for survivors.
Have you been affected by violence?
If you or anyone you know has experienced violence, there are services that can help. You don’t have to report the assault to police if you don’t want to.
These services may be able to help you:
Rape Crisis – 0808 802 9999
A free national helpline for women and girls who have experienced abuse, rape and all forms of sexual violence
24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline - 0808 2000 247
A 24-hour national service for women experiencing domestic violence, as well as for their their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf
Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity
Support for LGTB+ women, men and non-binary people who have experienced hate crime, sexual violence or domestic abuse. They also have a dedicated service for trans people
The Survivors Trust
Support for all survivors of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it happened