A woman in Kayes obtains justice for domestic violence after decade of suffering in silence

Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Women gather for an information session conducted by the Association of Malian Female Lawyers
Mali Justice Project

“I could not have imagined that the justice system could work in my favor.”  HK, victim of domestic violence and client of the Association of Malian Female Lawyers

January 2019 – Mali is a deeply patriarchal country. There are many inequalities that adversely affect women and girls, one being prevalent domestic violence. A 2012/2013 USAID Gender Assessment found a vast majority of women in Mali suffering from domestic violence. In fact, the Assessment reported that 76% of women think it is acceptable for a man to beat a woman for burning food, arguing, going out without telling the man, being negligent with children, or refusing to have sexual intercourse. One of the reasons women think this way is because of poor understanding of their legal rights and structural limitations on women’s access to justice.

As a result, not many women have the courage to file complaints against perpetrators of violence, especially when the perpetrator is an intimate partner such as a husband. To raise women’s awareness of their legal rights, the USAID Mali Justice Project currently works with 11 civil society organizations across Mali and a coalition of 9 women’s rights defense organizations, called “Hakew Sabatili”—meaning access to justice—to provide legal advisory and representation services to women.

One such woman is HK*, a 28-year-old woman from the eastern city of Kayes, who has been married to her husband for 12 years and has 5 children. She has suffered a decade of physical, economic, and psychological abuse in the hands of her husband. Following a recent beating by her husband during which she sustained serious injuries and having participated in an outreach session on women’s rights—conducted by the Association of Malian Female Lawyers, the USAID Mali Justice Project’s civil society organization partners—HK finally filed a complaint at one of the Association legal clinics.

With assistance of the Association of Malian Female Lawyers, HK obtained a guilty verdict against her husband who received an 18-month prison sentence and was ordered to pay a fine of 300,000 FCFA (approximately $600). As the case closed, HK expressed her relief. “I am free now,” she said and added, “I could not have imagined that the justice system could work in my favor. I am happy with this outcome. My children and I can now live a peaceful life.”

HK is just one of dozens of women who have received assistance from the Association of Malian Female Lawyers since their program began in July 2017. With USAID support, they plan to expand their current legal services to include psychological and medical assistance as well as community support to avoid re-victimization or social ostracization and marginalization of victims.  Nearly 60,000 women have benefitted from the USAID Mali Justice Project’s services since the beginning of the project. The services include legal awareness, legal and judicial assistance and alternative dispute resolution services, especially mediation. USAID Mali Justice Project is a four year program of $ 22 million aiming to help Malian justice sectors and civil society to advance institutional reforms, increase access to justice, and reduce corruption and this way enhance delivery of justice services in Mali.

*Names, in part or full, have been omitted to protect security

Last updated: October 19, 2020

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