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Magistrates, prosecutors drilled in sign language

Magistrates, police prosecutors and court clerks were yesterday trained in how to communicate effectively in sign language whenever they are administering justice to persons with hearing problems.

The training is part of a project called “Exploitation, Violence and Abuse” by Disabled Women in Africa (Diwa) with funding from Disability Rights Fund. It is facilitated by Malawi National Association of the Deaf (Manad).

Diwa’s Country Director, Ruth Mkutumula, said that deaf persons sometimes end up being wrongly convicted due to communication gap.

“Our findings have shown that these people face numerous challenges in accessing justice due to sign language which most presiding magistrates, prosecutors and even interpreters themselves do not understand. In the end, the magistrate just rush into unfair judgements so as to save time, thereby convicting an innocent person,” Mkutumula said.

She, therefore, said with the seven-day training, most of the magistrates, court clerks and police prosecutors will be equipped with basic skills needed for proper administration of justice to persons with hearing impairment.

One of the participants, First Grade Magistrate, Henzi Kantchere, described the training workshop as timely, saying it will narrow the communication gap that exists between the court personnel and the deaf.

“We’ll know how to communicate properly with these [hearing impaired] people even without the aid of court interpreters. Sometimes court interpreters fail to grasp and interpret the signs thereby compromising justice system.

“So all this is now history thanks to the ongoing orientation which I personally believe will work out for the betterment of those who have hearing and speaking problems,“ Kantchere said.

Police prosecutor, Kattie Mvula, said it is time women and girls with disabilities accessed justice in the courts of law.

“It’s sad to see a complainant or defendant who is either deaf or dumb withdrawing a case on communication grounds. Since we’re fully equipped, we’ll be able to help those in pursuit of justice to see its end,” Mvula said.

In her remarks, Diwa board member, Hajira Alie urged the participants to put the training into use.

“You have to practise more for your own perfection. This, I believe, will better the lives of disabled women and girls as far as getting fair justice in courts is concerned,” Alie said.

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