Achieving more with less: A critical review of protocols for forensic investigation of sexual violence in low-resource environments

Elsevier, Forensic Science International: Synergy, Volume 1, 2019, Pages 108-113
Lisa L. Smith, Heather D. Flowe and Wangu Kanja

Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) is notoriously difficult to investigate and prosecute. SGBV occurs in varied contexts and requires flexibility in the investigative approach in order to develop a strong evidence base to enable successful prosecutions. In this paper we focus on the need for innovation and development of training protocols for gathering testimonial and forensic evidence in SGBV cases, particularly in low resource environments, such as developing countries, displaced communities, and conflict and post-conflict societies. We discuss existing international guidelines that have been developed for improving the documentation and investigation of SGBV in these contexts, and argue there are significant gaps in the knowledge base that impede the effective implementation of such guidelines. In particular, collaborative research between academics, practitioners and NGOs is needed to address several priority areas. These include the development of programmes geared towards training non-specialist practitioners who work in low resource environments, as well as research programmes that evaluate the implementation of the programmes. This research will improve access to justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence.