Abuse is the price you pay for being a woman or child in Africa

November 17, 2013

The number of cases of abuse against women in Africa in the first half of this year has increased compared to first half of last year according to new study. I have read some of the headline grabbing cases but to me, the most devastating story I came across was that of a 23-year-old Ugandan who was allegedly sexually abused by pedophiles claiming to be Pakistani investors living in the country. Thanks to public outcry and efforts by Uganda’s women parliamentarians, the case is being handled by security agencies. Just like most reports have revealed before, in Africa most cases out there are never reported. Most common form of abuse in Africa is sexual and psychological in nature. Although some experts have cited improved documentation process as one reason for increased number of abuses there are also increased cases of abuse of alcohol and drugs by men that accounts for more than 30 per cent of reported abuse cases. Studies conducted this year shows more women are suffering all forms of abuse and are developing the courage to come forward and report the cases to government institutions like Police and also non-governmental organizations dealing with women abuse. This trend has expanded in urban areas where women are more enlightened but the situation remains dire in remote areas especially in war torn countries like DR Congo and Somalia.  Fewer women have failed to go past that barrier where they’re still fearful of reporting their brutal husbands to relevant authorities. In western world, much braver women are traditionally confront their situation directly without fear even though the men who have been abusing them are their husbands. In some cases, women have reported that even people who have posed as religious leaders are abusing them.

There is no doubt that African women are starting to look past abuser’s outward reputation when they report their cases.  While much has changed in the culture of the religion in Africa, some old attitudes remain. Some leaders have been spending extravagantly on legal representation for alleged offenders, while the notoriously corrupt courts awarding miserly compensation of sexual abuse victims. Some churches whose their men of pulpit have been arrested their greatest concern has been to protect their organization from scandal rather than for the women and children sexually abused. Others go to the extreme of fooling the public with various inquiries that fail to tell the unvarnished truth and that has helped retain rotten apples in churches and other religious organizations and who should be in the coolers. To give credit to governments in Africa, studies have shown that high number of cases reported are caused by a marked improvement in the way courts were handling the documentation of incidents of abuse. There has also been an increase of professional counselors who have continued to encourage victims to open up. However, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done to address cases of abuse, particularly those dealing with government regulations. Sadly, some countries have archaic laws and have failed to reform by laws that suppress women and they ignore the fact that gender equality has become a politicized issue.

There is need for African governments to step in and supplant the existing by laws. Women in Africa think of marriage as a highly structured and hierarchical institution and each husband is the prime authority in marriage, and each husband order is largely autonomous and women have less or no say when it comes to decision making. To rebuild the battered trust between men who mainly commits those abuses and children and women on the other side, the governments needs to find a way of removing husband from their positions as ‘alpha and Omega’ in marriages because they have failed egregiously to do the right thing. In African countries, it may be that the crisis of confidence and trust will not pass until the present generation of husbands who are tainted by their handling of marriages earlier have passed the baton on to a younger generation that mainly practices western values. Me think that the pathway to ending the abuse against women and children lie in transferring much power from men through enacting of laws that deters future abuses. There are African men of the highest integrity but others are just idiots who subscribe to chauvinism. For the continent to minimize the increasing rates of women abuse there is need for major cultural change and a commitment to treat women and children as human beings not animals.

Contador Harrison