Meet Justine Yakatina
Justine Yakatina is 32 years old and has been working as a lawyer in DR Congo since 2017. She specialises in cases involving sexual violence.
Justine speaks to us about her job, why she loves it and how thanks to the generosity of people in Scotland, she is helping some of the world’s poorest communities.
I have a sister who is a lawyer and a brother who is a magistrate. They encouraged me to be a lawyer and I’m glad I did. I think it’s the best job in the world!Justine
17 year old, Iris.
I am working on behalf of a young girl called Iris. At 17 years old, she was duped by her friend and was taken to meet a man who drugged and raped her. Her family is extremely poor and couldn’t afford the legal fees and she was supported by SCIAF to prosecute her attacker. Without the help she is receiving, Iris, like many others would have to suffer the consequences of her ordeal alone, without much chance of a resolution.
Sexual violence and prosecutions in war torn DR Congo
Sexual violence in DR Congo is a big problem and the legal process to prosecute those who commit rape exists but is expensive so many people are unable to afford it. Years of conflict and a lack of governance also means that many are unaware of their rights and how to take prosecutions further.
The legal process
The legal process requires time and money. We need to collect testimonies and pay administration fees. Without the financial support many people wouldn’t be able to do any of this. We also push for compensation to help women and their families to recover and educate the survivors on legal system. SCIAF helps us take the whole case through the legal process.
Our work includes telling the survivors and community members of the importance of practicalities in the case of rape: going to hospital to get proof; advising them not to take a shower; keeping hold of clothes for evidence and other support such as SCIAF’s partners at the Olame Centre for victims of sexual violence.
In addition to this, we provide protection for victims and their family in case of retribution, which sadly many poor and vulnerable families are afraid of when taking their cases to court.
Every prosecution helps send a strong message
Every time we are able to help bring justice, we send a strong message to those who commit these atrocious acts. It tells them that these women and girls are not alone and with the support of the legal system, the community and charities like SCIAF, the perpetrators will not be able to act with impunity.
You cannot recover what these women and girls have lost but some closure through justice and compensation can help them survive the horrific experiences they have suffered.
What we can do
Someone who has suffered rape will never be able to forget what they went through. But lawyers can help bring their attackers to justice and this brings them a lot of comfort. It proves they are not alone and little by little allows them to rebuild their lives.
Together we can help women in DR Congo. SCIAF are providing medical care, trauma counselling and legal assistance to survivors of sexual violence. Working through our partners we help women to recover, support themselves and rebuild their lives.
We must all keep doing what we can.Justine