News / Africa

Activists Launch Global Campaign Against Gender Violence

A man holds a poster during a protest against violence toward woman, before South African Finance minister Pravin Gordhan gave his budget speech at Parliament in Cape Town , South Africa, Feb. 27, 2013.
A man holds a poster during a protest against violence toward woman, before South African Finance minister Pravin Gordhan gave his budget speech at Parliament in Cape Town , South Africa, Feb. 27, 2013.
Anita Powell
Activists around the world on Monday launched 16 days of activism against gender violence, an annual campaign that for more than 20 years has aimed to eradicate violence against women and girls.  But the campaign appears to have largely failed in countries like South Africa, which is often called the “rape capital of the world.”

This year’s campaign against gender violence comes during an especially rough year in Africa.

South Africa was riveted by an especially vicious rape case when teenager Anene Booysen was brutally gang-raped, disemboweled and left to die.

In Kenya, three men were arrested for gang-raping a 16-year-old and injuring her so severely that she is now confined to a wheelchair.  They were ordered to cut grass at the police station and then released.

And in chaotic Congo, the tide of sexual violence that has washed over the nation’s women and girls continued, as armed groups, including the country's military, ravaged the population while fighting for resources and territory.

This is the harsh backdrop against which gender violence activists are working during the annual drive to stop sexual violence.

For activist Shireen Motara, the campaign is just another 16 days on the front lines of an unrelenting battle.  Motara is the executive director of the Johannesburg-based Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, which helps women who are victims of violence.

“I think in general the gender-based violence sector is skeptical about the 16 days.  ... I do think that it does serve a purpose in at least highlighting in the issues and creating a little bit more awareness.  I am not sure that it is effective to the point of changing behavior or improving the the situation.  But you know, for us for example, for my organization, we are continuing with the work that we do,” said Motara.

Activists said there were indicators awareness was increasing.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Nairobi in October to demand a harsher penalty for the alleged rapists who were sentenced to cut grass.

The South African man who confessed to raping Booysen was earlier this month given the stiffest possible punishment of two life sentences.

And last week, a Congolese court started trying dozens of soldiers accused of mass rape and other acts of sexual violence.

Human Rights Watch Africa Advocacy Director Tiseke Kasambala said her organization had tracked some improvements, especially in South Africa, but more needed to be done.

“There has been progress in terms of campaigning and the formation of government task teams looking into gender and sexual-orientation based violence.  And there has been some progress in setting up systems here in South Africa to track cases of violence, in particular against LGBT people through the criminal justice system.  But the challenges remain," she said.

On Monday, South African President Jacob Zuma, who has himself been tried and acquitted of rape, spoke out against sexual violence to mark the first day of the campaign.

“No woman or child should be sexually harassed, beaten, raped, stabbed, shot or attacked in any manner, anywhere in our country,” President Jacob Zuma said in a statement.  “Those who commit such horrendous crimes have no place in our communities.  They belong in jail.”

Motara welcomed  Zuma’s words, but said she questioned the dedication of leaders in ending gender-based violence.

“Part of the challenge we have in our society is because there is a general sense that the leaders in the country do not really take the issue of gender-based violence and gender equality seriously.  So, it is lip service at certain points in time, but you do not see that being reflected through the way in which there is communication, the way in which our laws and policies are framed, the way in which there is implementation of our laws and service delivery to our citizens,” she said.

Activists like Motara said they would continue to fight the battle long after the campaign ended on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day.

That timing was apt, Motara noted, as violence against women and girls hurt everyone.  After all, each one of those victims is someone’s daughter, mother or sister.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid