• Sunday, August 31, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    UNiTY Rises Against Violence

    Chris Stein

    Johannesburg: The Unifem campaign ‘Say No – UNiTE to End Violence Against Women’ has set off campaigns right across Africa.

    In Sudan, a growing number of reported cases of child rape have prompted public support for changes to the country’s laws on sexual assault.

    “Society will take a step towards social change and justice,” says Fatima Hashim, director of the Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre in Khartoum, and leader of the 149 Alliance, a coalition of civil society groups named after the article of Sudan’s penal code they are working to change. “It will enable women to take the cases to court and punish the criminals.”

    Sudanese law defines rape as non-consensual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to each other. This exposes women laying rape charges to being found guilty of adultery if they are unable to prove to a judge that the sex was not consensual – many judges require four male witnesses to convict on a rape charge.

    In Rwanda, the government has already taken steps to reduce gender-based violence and care for
    survivors. “Police and prosecutors are slowly succeeding in tackling criminal cases related to gender-based violence,” says Angelique Habyarimana, inspector in the prosecutor-general’s office who investigates domestic and sexual violence.

    The government has also established the Isange Centre in capital Kigali to provide shelter and counseling for victims of domestic violence, child abuse or sexual assault. Grace Igiraneza, coordinator of the centre, says it is important to help survivors of rape and other gender violence to come to terms with their experience.

    In the Seychelles, UNIFEM has responded to a government request to monitor increasing domestic violence. It is also undertaking a similar survey in the Comoros.

    Several million African women and girls are at risk of genital mutilation, while hundreds of thousands of women and children in slums like Nairobi’s Kibera risk rape each night they venture outside to use the toilet. Many women are no safer in their homes: every six hours, a South African
    woman is killed by an intimate partner.

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