Saturday, November 14, 2009
35 Women Acquitted And Discharged
We were marveled by the scenario on TV when youths and women were paraded by security personnel as if they had committed serious crimes. When we came to gather that the security forces were engaged in what amounts to a moral cleansing exercise by arresting people standing about in the Tourism Development Area and subjecting them to questioning and releasing only those who gave satisfactory answers, Foroyaa emphasised that each sovereign person has a right to freedom of movement.
We also pointed out that curfew must be declared in a disturbed area before certain procedures are put in place to manage a crisis. We insisted that during normal times the most that a security personnel could do is to ask a person for an Identity Card. Other than that any subjection of a person to any form of interrogation amounts to harassment and abuse of authority. Hence, Foroyaa was concerned when 35 women appeared in court charged under the rogue and vagabond provision, a law which has been deleted from the statute books of many democratic states because of its tendency to prosecute only the poor for their poverty rather than for doing anything which harms another or the public interest. This is why Foroyaa challenged the Female Lawyers Association in the Gambia (FLAG) and (FLARE) to take charge in defending the rights of such women.
The Female Lawyers Association of the Gambia did assume their role. Their president, Janet Sallah Njie, did argue against their conviction. Ultimately, the magistrate agreed with her arguments. They were therefore acquitted and discharged. Human Rights need defenders. Those who expose their violations and come to the defence of victims in courts are called human rights defenders. No modern society could combat abuse of authority and impunity without the active participation of Human Rights defenders. The poor can never get justice before courts unless some lawyers are willing to put money aside and defend victims because of their love for justice and their determination to ensure that it prevails.
Congratulation FLAG! This is the way forward
Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.