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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs