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 Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More