TrackGBV: Pacific Island Country Reports 2000-2021


Society has become accustomed to seeing headlines reporting on cases of gender-based violence (GBV) that have made it to the courts where justice has not been served. Suspended sentences based on arguments grounded in rape myths and sentence reductions based on character references irrelevant to a perpetrator's violent offending are all too common. For victims/ survivors who seek justice in the courts, less than half receive an outcome unhindered by gender discrimination.

It’s one thing to have an isolated example of a case with its own unique circumstances, and it’s another to build an evidence base of over 20 years of case law that tracks the patterns and impacts of biassed judicial decision-making, regionally and by country. TrackGBV does just that, using data and technology to support judicial policy reform with the goal of removing gender discrimination from judicial decision-making.

The TrackGBV data tracks key variables related to access to justice for women and girls and allows us to quantify the impact of contentious factors on sentencing. In many Pacific Island Countries and in countries around the world, perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual offences often receive disproportionately low sentences or no custodial sentences at all. TrackGBV aims to tell the story of how that happens in each jurisdiction.

TrackGBV began in 2013 in the Pacific Islands region. Since then, ICAAD and its law firm partners have reviewed over 5,000 cases and analysed 2,492 sentencing decisions from 2000 to 2021. To ensure timeliness and relevance, ICAAD will continue to review and add to the TrackGBV Data Dashboard, accessible on the ICAAD website. Sentencing decisions allow for the identification of the presence of contentious factors (see page 6) and numerous other variables, providing a baseline to measure the quantitative impact of gender discrimination within the judiciary.

The TrackGBV data has illuminated a number of patterns in the region. Victims/ survivors who come before the courts tend to fall between the ages of 6 and 17. When it comes to access to justice, the impact of contentious factors is clear. Contentious factors were raised in 77.3% of cases regionally with a quantifiable impact on sentencing in 51.9% of cases. While the frequency and types of contentious factors raised and applied in cases vary across jurisdictions, in cases with charges similar to rape, sentences were, on average, ⅓ shorter when contentious factors were raised. The TrackGBV data also points to additional procedural barriers to consistency and accountability, namely the lack of medical reports, the misapplication of first time offender status, and the lack of victim anonymity. Despite progress in some jurisdictions on reducing judicial bias and improving access to justice for women and girls, TrackGBV reveals notable gaps for judiciaries across the region.

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Research Type(s)
Report – Not peer reviewed
Submitted by Erin Thomas
June 23, 2023
Published in

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