News / Africa

Silence Breeds Violence Against Girls in Southern Senegal

Multimedia

Audio

Fearing social stigma, families in Senegal's southern region are remaining silent in the face of widespread sexual violence against girls, says a study released this month.

A study released this month revealed alarming rates of violence against girls aged 10-18 in Senegal's southern regions of Ziguinchor, Kolda and Sédhiou.  Conducted by the U.N. Children's Fund and the University of Ziguinchor, the study says breaking the silence around sexual violence in the region is key to protecting girls.  But a state education worker in the Sédhiou region, Yadicone Sané Diatta, says that too often a family's honor is put ahead of the child's needs.

Diatta says silence to preserve the family's honor often is a family's first reaction when a girl is raped.  She says the girl has perhaps already been promised in marriage, so her family does not want her to be stigmatized by the community.  Diatta says the family prefers to handle it themselves instead of going to the authorities.  It is also not rare, she says, for the perpetrator to be an uncle, cousin or other family member.

Diatta says the silence breeds impunity. She points to one teacher who was imprisoned after impregnating one of his students this year, but cites that as the exception.  Many cases, she says, are not even reported, which just encourages perpetrators.

Head of girl's education for the Ziginchor region, Aminata Traoré, said girls are at risk in schools and in the community.  She says many of the girls attacked are from poor families and they go on the street to sell peanuts and bananas, where they are exposed to risk.  Traoré says there are many cases of these girls being raped.  Also, sometimes the very people who are supposed to be protecting the girls take advantage of them, and the girls become pregnant.

Local education authorities say rates of early marriage and pregnancy among girls aged 10-18 in Senegal's southern regions are alarming. The report pointed to more than 700 girls, from 10-18, who were pregnant in 2009.

Education specialist in the Kolda region, Oumar Diatta, says early pregnancy is a form of violence against girls because it has negative effects on their health, their morality and their education.  The girls are very young, he says, so pregnancy and childbirth, often in rural areas, are difficult and risky.  He also says traditional practices still common in the Kolda region, like female genital mutilation and forced early marriage, constitute forms of violence.

Researchers hope the study will be a call to action for local authorities and international actors to work together to better assist victims and fight violence against children.

UNICEF's head in Ziguinchor, Christina de Bruin, says systems for child protection need to be improved, along with encouraging social change in how people deal with this violence, and reinforcing partnerships and protection systems to deal with emergency cases.  She says this study has helped by collecting the data, and now the need is clear to work to better protect children.  She says prevention is the first step.

Those working on child protection in the region say educating families and children about sexual violence and children's rights is paramount in keeping girls safe.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid