What you need to know:
- Adjourned and postponed hearings is another issue that victims seeking justice have complained about.
- Public funds can be deployed to care for the families of those who have been harmed, or even the harmed themselves, if they are alive.
Two murder trials of significant public interest have reappeared in court, and both are cases of tragic and violent deaths of young women. The first was the 2018 murder of the 26-year-old Sharon Otieno and her unborn baby, and the second the 2019 murder of 25-year-old Ivy Wangeci.
Both Sharon and Ivy were killed in terrible circumstances and their families live with the additional trauma of knowing that the final moments of their loved ones were extremely painful. This trauma is further magnified by the delayed and complex nature of Kenya’s justice system, which is often less caring to victims. The first consideration in making justice a caring process involves how these cases are reported and communicated.
Often, when women die at the hands of men, social and cultural conditioning unjustly imagines male murderers as having experienced provocation of some kind. Media entities pick up on these damaging threads of conversation, cementing the idea that there is a possible justification for these deaths, serving the media outlets with clicks while harming the victims.
Meanwhile, the bereaved have to watch their loved ones, who already died so violently, being violated further by an unkind public. The media must acknowledge its deep sociocultural prejudices against women, which enable these cruel conversations and actively call for justice.
Secondly, adjourned and postponed hearings is another issue that victims seeking justice have complained about. The common adage that justice delayed is justice denied is never truer than at this time. Often, overworked and hurried judiciary staff communicate court delays curtly, eager to move on to the next task.
Accommodating victims of crimes
The people seeking justice are then left to deal with frustration and fear that there may be underhand processes at play to deny them their day in court.
To solve this, burnout and understaffing in the Judiciary must be dealt with immediately, and staff counselled on how to speak with people who are in distress. Innovation must go into accommodating the victims of crimes in whichever way, from hybrid court appearances that don’t require them to travel far, to scheduling them at convenient times.
Thirdly, while the problems of our prison system are known, public funds can be deployed to care for the families of those who have been harmed, or even the harmed themselves, if they are alive.
Instead of abandoning them to their own devices, social workers, counsellors and other professionals can be tasked with monitoring the holistic health of the people who have undergone immeasurable trauma, in such a manner as to facilitate their participation in the court process.
In expanding the possibilities for care during the pursuit of justice, the likelihood and negative perceptions around justice can slowly begin to shift. If Kenya is to create a culture of care, then the operations around justice are an excellent place to start.
The writer is a policy analyst. [email protected]