The only High Court female judge the Hon Justice Maelyn Bird has revealed that she herself is someone who has survived domestic violence and reiterates her call for the Government to look at what more can be done to prevent the occurrence of these crimes in the first place, and to take the necessary action.
Delivering the keynote address for the Women in Law Breakfast held on Thursday Bird said increasing the participation of women in the justice sector, including at senior levels can make an important contribution to the goal of gender equality.
“But I also see the justice sector as having a fundamental role to play in addressing one of the key impediments to gender equality, and that is the prevalence of sexual and family violence. While sexual and domestic violence are not only experienced by women and girls, I am sure that no one will dispute that women and girls are disproportionately affected by these crimes,” she said.
Bird states that: “As a judge on the High Court, I have become increasingly aware of and concerned by cases of sexual assault, many of them perpetrated by family members against children. The fact that people are coming forward to report the cases is really important, as is their willingness to testify in court. But as I have remarked in some of my judgments, the police and the courts cannot address these issues on our own. I reiterate my call for the executive to look at what more can be done to prevent the occurrence of these crimes in the first place, and to take the necessary action.
She adds: “As a lawyer, I have also been confronted by the prevalence of domestic violence, and the needs of women who seek protection from domestic violence. And in fact, it has not been just the experience of my clients, but also myself. I stand before you as someone who has survived domestic violence.”
“With these personal and professional experiences, I was so pleased to see the elected leaders of our country take the important step in 2014 of passing the Family Protection Act. This is a very welcome and important reform. But, as I am sure many of you in this room will agree, enacting a law does not automatically lead to the effective implementation and enforcement,” she told the breakfast gathering.
In that regard, she said she laments the lack of awareness by many women to this day of their rights to freedom from violence, and their rights to protection from violence.
“I see the need for much more work to be done in this area. This awareness must meet women where they are, not just those of us lucky to have an education,” she said.