Global Justice and Forensic Science

Two people stood next to a Forensic DNA innovations posterThe Global Justice and Forensic Science programme of research focuses on addressing sexual and gender-based violence in low resource settings. The current project is piloting the use of innovative self-examination DNA kits in Kenya. The kit allows survivors of sexual violence to collect quality forensic evidence under supervision, to provide a pathway to access to justice, to assist investigations and prosecutions of perpetrator/s. The project has been sustainably developed to ensure long-term integration of the kits into the justice system while building capacity and understanding through training programmes with healthcare workers, police, and the Kenya Survivors of Sexual Violence Network.

Lisa Smith and two Men in a lab looking at a computer screen 

Gender inequality continues to be one of the world’s most enduring violations of human rights, and sexual and gender-based violence is one of the most damaging manifestations of gender inequality. It is globally recognised that there is a need for accountability for perpetrator/s, better access to justice and to end the current culture of impunity. In low resource settings it is made more difficult to investigate these crimes due to complex social, regulatory and political reasons.  These include barriers such as the lack of availability of medical facilities and trained practitioners, as well as cultural norms and safety concerns that deter victims from seeking invasive medical examinations. The lack of high-quality forensic evidence, particularly DNA, contributes to continued cycles of violence in some regions in a number of ways.

This interdisciplinary team includes researchers and experts from the School of Criminology, the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology, Kenyatta University, and the Wangu Kanja Foundation. Since 2015 the project team has received funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund, the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, the Ring for Peace Foundation, and the University of Leicester Impact Fund. 

In 2018 the project was awarded the Times Higher Education Awards ‘Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences’.