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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora