Violence against women and children has no boundaries, regional disparities or cultural constraints. While its nature, causes and circumstances may have a given cultural background, violence against women and children unfortunately exists throughout the world without exception. Attempts at addressing and combating violence against women and children have taken various forms including legislative interventions followed by judicial interpretations of the same. While the law and the legal system alone may not be sufficient to combat violence against women and children, in instances where cases are brought forward, the legal system needs to be well equipped to deal with each of those cases in a sensitive and expeditious manner. Laws are the reflection of a society’s needs at any particular time. They therefore change with the times. Likewise, the manner in which violence is being perpetrated changes in society. Therefore, the mechanisms that a society sets up to combat violence will have to take into account the varying ways in which violence is being perpetrated.
Experience sharing about handling such cases can provide greater insights into solving similar cases and in understanding the different ways in which problems can be addressed and good practices be arrived at. Unfortunately, exercises of experience sharing for prosecutors and the judiciary have hardly ever been considered. The present publication is an attempt to document the best practices of the superior judiciary in four South Asian countries, namely Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. At the First Meeting of the Regional Action Forum on “Improving the Implementation of Laws Protecting Women and Children” held at Colombo in May 2004, it was the unanimous view of all those present that there was a strong need to pull together the most progressive judgments in the area of violence against women and to disseminate them widely amongst practitioners so that the rich jurisprudence that existed in this part of the globe be shared and made use of throughout the region. It was agreed by all that this exercise should be a positive one, using only key judgments that have long lasting implications and can be referred to as case law beneficial for espousing the cause of women and children; and that the number of judgments should be limited to a maximum of 30 judgments per country – at the Supreme Court or High Court level. It was also strongly felt that such a compilation had to be updated regularly – for example every six months – and that the publication must be made freely available both in print and electronic form.
This compilation is not completely reflective of the legal systems in the four countries since only reported judgments but no interim orders or “un-reported judgments” have been included. It is also possible that certain judgements which are widely used in certain regions have been inadvertantly not included.