The pandemic has made gender differences more evident than ever before. From a gender perspective, health, economic, and social impacts for men and women are different due to pre-existing gaps. As a recent UNDP study points out, the solutions proposed must also be differentiated, avoiding generalized formulas that further deepen the gaps, especially if we add other vulnerability factors. In light of the above, access to justice for women who suffer from gender-based violence must also be addressed in a special way.
Violence against women is a reality in Peru well before the pandemic outbreak, but it has intensified with the arrival of COVID-19. While reports do not directly point to an increase in femicide during the health emergency, the reality speaks out for itself. According to a study by the Aurora Programme, the number of calls to the emergency 100 line has multiplied, increasing by 88 % compared to the same period in 2019. In addition, information about the number of women who are missing and have suffered sexual violence during the emergency is chilling, even more so when most of the victims are minors.
Along these lines, it is important to think about sustainable solutions with long-term work. For this reason, the UNDP has launched the second phase of the Women’s Access to Justice Project. The first phase in 2019 identified that in order for sustainable improvement of access to justice for victims of violence, all operators of justice as a whole need to be further strengthened. On this basis, the second phase works with the Specialized National System of Justice for the protection and punishment of violence against women and members of the family group (SNSJ), made up of the Judicial Branch, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Peruvian National Police (PNP), the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MWVP).
"Access to justice is a fundamental right that can be limited in unequal societies, especially in the current context of a pandemic that has intensified inequalities. To promote a specialized justice system as a response to violence against women is to guarantee this fundamental right for all.”
(Maria del Carmen Sacasa, UNDP Peru Resident Representative)
A study, carried out in the first phase of the project, highlights the need for the five institutions that make up the specialized system (SNSJ) to improve their levels of coordination and move towards an integrated information system that promotes joint action, "thinking together, to do and solve together". Without joint action, interoperability is unfeasible and, without it, it will be difficult to guarantee real and effective access to justice for women.
In this sense, the project emphasizes the implementation of the SNSJ and the coordination among the member institutions, accompanying and strengthening coordination by the MWVP, promoting the interoperability of the system and contributing to the design of a model of care services, in order to improve timely response to victims.
The project also pays attention to building specialization of operators who enable access to justice, with the development of online training modules, adjusted to the "new normality." This is achieved together with the MWVP and in partnership with the National School of Public Administration (NSPA). Along the same lines, and with the support of the National System of Evaluation, Accreditation and Certification of Educational Quality (NSEACEQ), the program is promoting the certification of skills of operators in the Puente Piedra - Ventanilla Judicial District, including a comprehensive approach towards violence. It is precisely in this judicial district where the project promotes coordinated interventions of the members of the SNSJ, establishing guidelines for joint action.
We chose to work in the judicial district of Puente Piedra - Ventanilla because it is one of the three judicial districts where the SNSJ began to operate, but mainly because it has good practices implemented, recognized and designed based on the needs of the victims.
(Karim Velasco, Project Coordinator)
But the health emergency also represents a challenge from a digital point of view to reactivate the path to access justice, which clashes with the deep-rooted in-person dynamics with which the services of this path have been implemented in general. Therefore, based on the concept of digital justice, the project identifies and seeks to meet the technological needs to ensure that the various processes, especially those involving the victim, can continue to be carried out respecting the physical distance required by this context and protecting the health of victims and justice operators.
All these actions aim to contribute to the sustainability of the processes that allow women victims of gender-based violence to access justice in the current context and beyond the pandemic. Because it is important to remember that justice only exists if we do not leave anyone behind.