News / Africa

    Africa's Domestic Violence, Rapes Extend Far Beyond Congo

    Activists say one way to help fight domestic violence in Africa would be to have more women's representation in politics, as this sign in Monrovia, Liberia, suggests
    Activists say one way to help fight domestic violence in Africa would be to have more women's representation in politics, as this sign in Monrovia, Liberia, suggests
    Nico Colombant

    While a recent U.S. report has staggering statistics about ongoing mass rapes and domestic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, human rights activists say the problem exists across Africa.  Our correspondent caught up with African lawyers who are in the United States getting advice on how to confront the situation.

    At a meeting in the Washington offices of the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence, Rene Renick shared with her African guests some of the common challenges women face in fighting for their rights.

    "That is something we have been through too just so you know," said Renick. "We have been told we are breaking up marriages, we have been called lesbians and baby killers."

    A report released this week in the American Journal of Public Health, based on new statistics, indicated that between 2006 and 2007, 400,000 women had been raped in the Congo - a rate 26 times higher than what the United Nations has been reporting. The study said these rapes were taking place in conflict areas as well as in the homes of the victims.

    Gladys Fri Mbuya from Cameroon said that while many Americans hear only about rape and domestic violence from Africa in the conflict-ridden Congo, she said the problem is rampant across the continent.

    "It cannot be just Congo," said Mbuya. "Domestic violence I think is everywhere. And it is more rampant in Africa because of our culture. Basically it is encouraged by some households. You grow up, you see your parents fighting and you grow up thinking that fighting is a normal thing for families. They give the impression that your husband is like your father, he has the right to correct you, he has the right to beat you."

    Mbuya takes on many legal cases to protect women, and also hosts a weekly radio show for women's issues on her own time, but she says there is only so much she can do on her own.  A new family legislative code has been years in the making in Cameroon, but so far it has yet to be completed.

    Mbuya says young women and teenagers are often sold into marriages, which quickly become abusive, and that there is not a single shelter in all of Cameroon, a country of nearly 20 million people.

    "You realize that they remain in those relationships because they do not have a way to hide," she said. "They do not know where to run to. They go to their parents, but their parents send them back because of the cultural mindset, they think it is right for your husband to beat you, they keep pushing them back.  Some of them have actually expressed that if we knew where to go and hide we would leave this relationship."

    Like Mbuya, fellow lawyer and women's rights activist Selamawit Tesfaye is also completing a fellowship at the Georgetown University Law Center.

    Tesfaye says in her home country, Ethiopia, which also does not have laws to cover domestic violence, marital rape is a huge, if largely unmentioned, problem.

    She says laws which were recently passed in Ethiopia severely restricted outside funding for non-governmental organizations, making it all the more difficult to address the situation.

    "Most of the organizations that were working in that area have been rendered ineffective, literally, because most of our funding was coming from there. I am not saying the government is not focusing on those areas but the non-governmental organization expertise has not been replaced so there is a gap at the moment," said Tesfaye.

    She said in addition to more funding to help address the problem, more women's representation in governments across Africa could also help.

    Paulette Sullivan Moore, vice president of public policy for the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence, was one of those giving advice at the Washington meeting.

    She compared the plight of women in Africa to the situation several decades ago in the United States when there few laws protecting women, and police were unresponsive to complaints of domestic violence.

    "I am not surprised about the current level of struggle," said Moore. "They did not say things that we weren't hearing in this country 25, 30 years ago. So I hope that gives them hope and that they will one day be at a place that they will be helping another country move forward."

    Some of the advice at the meeting ranged from compiling precise statistics and starting help websites and hotlines, to striking up partnerships with insurance companies to give loan assistance to at-risk women.

    The African lawyers said they were hoping to return to Washington next year when the second world conference of women's shelters will be held from February 27 to March 1, bringing together advocates working to end violence against women from all over the world.

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora