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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid