Chapter 23: Practitioner perspective Feminism in court – practical solutions for tackling the wicked problem of women’s invisibility in criminal justice
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This chapter takes a practical approach to how criminal justice systems can change. Women generally appear in criminal justice systems in three main respects: as victims, as suspects and as actors (lawyers and/or judges). Feminist efforts over time have changed law, practice and procedure to help facilitate the effective participation of women as victims in justice systems, particularly through effective prosecution of gender-based violence at national and international level. This chapter focuses on the visibility of women as accused persons: globally it remains exceptional to find a woman as a suspect or a defendant in any criminal justice system but given the recognition of the victimhood of women as witnesses, the numbers of accused women ought to be further reduced by non-prosecution of women who commit crime as victims of abuse, exploitation and coercion, whether as human trafficking victims or in a domestic context. A visible comprehensive commitment in criminal justice systems to tackle offending against women necessarily includes a responsibility to women and girls in the dock. Women actors, particularly judges, can contribute to that change, as numbers in that category grow, eventually moving women away from the current manifestation of victimhood and making women most visible as lawyers.

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