Violence against women in Africa on the rise

December 8, 2015

In Africa, Rape top the highest number of cases of violence against women according to new data in my possesion. In 12 months from November 2014 to October 2015, had recorded at least 420,345 cases of violence against women in the continent, 49% of which were rape cases. The rape cases were committed by men perpetrators and more than 2,890 women were killed in Sub Saharan Africa.The report add that of the 32% recorded cases, majority of them were based on reports made by the victims and the remaining cases were monitored by social media and mainstream media in 30 African countries covered.Domestic violence against women was the second-highest statistic and third was violence related to love affairs.In total, according to the report, there were a total of 32,908 women who were both physically, psychologically and sexually abused, a good number of whom died because of violence, including being murdered in cold blood and witchcraft. “We blame the lack of African countries government protection as one of the main causes of violence,” the report authors notes.The number of violations against women had increased by 26.4 percent from the previous year.The report highlighted that although various measures had been taken by the non governmental organisations to promote services to victims of violence against women across the continent, there were still some structural obstacles.Among the obstacles included discrimination by law enforcement officers and a lack of sufficient products, facilities and community service centers. The quality of service, similarly, is also yet to meet high standards in come countries while others its sub standard. Other problems, report added, included a lack of supporting policies to protect women, a limited budget, corruption and poor coordination among related institutions.

Africa need a comprehensive policy that covers prevention, punishment and rehabilitation. The prevention mechanism should be implemented by state and public institutions by adhering to human rights and ensuring the recruitment, promotion and supervision systems are not gender biased.By having such a system, violence against Women in Africa could be reduced in the long term as it would create a more conducive environment for women to live and flourish.The violations of women’s rights should be included in the development and implementation plans otherwise physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse of women would continue across the continent.Protection of women is an urgent issue in Africa, especially since women can suffer violence regardless of education, age and profession.Countries need a systemic protection mechanism because when a woman experiences abuse, it will reduce her productivity and in some cases like rape, the impact will stay forever.There is urgent need for a law on sexual violence to better resolve sexual abuse cases.According to the report, there was a rising number of discriminative bylaws some African countries have been introducing that are retrogressive.The report recorded more than 2,000 discriminative bylaws up to the end of 2014, up from 1,678 in 2010, which controlled women’s bodies, their profession and their legal certainty, among others. The bylaws were implemented in 16 countries across the continent Such bylaws actually contradict the UN convention on the elimination of discrimination against women.

Laws on domestic violence, while a much improved breakthrough compared to two decades ago, does not cover violence in intimate relationships outside of marriage as well as sexual violence. And when it comes to sexual violence in South Africa to be specific, the country’s criminal code hardly sides with the victims. In fact, many of the services in South Africa for female victims of violence are provided by civil society. These are significant challenges that need to be overcome. However, eliminating violence against women must tackle the most fundamental issue, which is that many women are still victims of economic exclusion, with implications of not only poverty but also political disempowerment.This economic vulnerability limits their chances to change their situation. They also have limited access to health, education, social protection and legal services.Eliminating violence against women in Africa, thus, requires a more integrated effort. It must involve empowerment, raising awareness on gender equality and ensuring access to basic services as well as employment.Intervention must target education, behavioral change and cultural shifts, and it must involve women and men, children and adults.There are some initiatives that address this fundamental problem, using various entry points. Some development programs supported by international development agencies tackle poverty, violence and economic exclusion of women to infuse the bigger message of gender equality. While laws and regulations are crucial to support gender focused development strategies, the African countries need to work with civil society organisations and community leaders to ensure the flexibility of programs and to adapt to the complexity of each community. Violence against women is both a cause and effect of poverty. Ending violence requires empowerment, but ending poverty requires ending violence as well. When African women live free from violence, the continent of more than 1 billion people will have a better chance of raising healthy families and contributing positively to communities.

Contador Harrison