Council of Europe 2019: Ending violence against women and girls to support the achievement of the SDGs
One month ago, a 17 year old girl in Kenya’s Busia County went to fetch water – 300 meters away from her grandmother’s house. Three days later, her body was discovered by her seven year old cousin and her grandmother lying in a bush. Her right hand had been chopped off and her tongue was missing. She had also been defiled. Since then, only one of her assailants has been arrested; the others remain at large. Sadly, she represents one of 40 women and girls who have lost their lives to sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya between January and May 2019 and is among scores of others who have been sexually violated in Kenya.
Although Kenya has put in place numerous progressive laws to curb sexual and gender-based violence, systemic failures by the country’s justice system coupled with shocking levels of impunity worsen an already dire situation. Indeed women’s and girls’ right to bodily autonomy is largely treated with contempt given that perpetrators often get away with these violations whenever cases are not highlighted in the media. For instance when Liz was brutally gang raped and thrown down a pit latrine unconscious in 2017, her attackers would have easily gotten away with the brutal attack had it not been for the outcry that was raised by civil society organizations together with the media attention that her case generated.
Kenya is party to a raft of regional and international conventions including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women but similarly this robust legal frameworks are not enforced.
Much more needs to be done to make access to justice a reality for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya. Putting up laws that are not accompanied by the requisite implementation mechanisms is a disservice to girls and women in Kenya.
Please join Equality Now in urging President Uhuru Kenyatta; the Ministries of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs; Interior and Coordination of National Government; and Health; as well as the State Law Office and Department of Justice; and the National Gender and Equality Commission to ensure that girls and women are protected from sexual and gender-based violence without any reservations. The Kenyan State has an obligation to protect all women and girls from violence and to ensure perpetrators are punished for the heinous crimes they commit.
You can also help by:
- Encouraging survivors of sexual and gender-based violence to report these violations;
- Reporting incidents of sexual and gender-based violence whenever they occur; and
- Ensuring that you protect the dignity of sexual and gender-based survivors
Learn more about sexual and gender-based violence and access to justice in Kenya.
Did you know that:
- More than 55,000 schools girls in Tanzania have been expelled from school over the last decade as a result of the ban yet Tanzania continues to hold the unenviable reputation of having one of the highest rates of sexual violence in sub-Saharan Africa?
- Tanzania is among countries with the highest adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in the world, with 21 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 having given birth based on a 2015/16 survey by the Tanzania’s own Bureau of Statistics?
- Tanzania is currently ranked position 11 for having the highest absolute number of child brides in the world, according to UNICEF?
Sadly, the existence of excessive patriarchal attitudes in Tanzania means that girls and women are treated with astounding levels of contempt. This is so much that in December 2017 President John Magufuli pardoned two paedophiles and renewed calls to have pregnant school girls arrested before he later invited the paedophiles to the Tanzania State House. The two had been convicted of sexually assaulting 10 children among them girls, aged between 6 and 8.
Even though Tanzania is bound by regional and international laws to protect girls and uphold their right to education and ensure their freedom from sexual violation, the issues remain largely unaddressed. Many sexual violence cases are settled outside of the country’s justice systems through traditional means, while girls who fall pregnant as a result are forced out of the education system. This is partly because of the systemic problems that arise when cases are reported; lack of political will and the reinforcement of the culture of silence.
Call on the government of Tanzania to protect girls
As an organization that champions the rights of women and girls, Equality Now calls on the government of Tanzania to lift the discriminatory ban against school going pregnant girls; protect girls from sexual exploitation; and address any other ineffective policies that preclude adolescent girls from fully enjoying their rights.
Please join Equality Now in urging President Magufuli, the Ministries of Education and Vocational Training; Defense and National Service; and Constitutional Affairs and Justice as well as Tanzania’s National Assembly to protect and uphold the rights of girl and women without any limitations.
You can also take action to address sexual violence in your community by:
- Ensuring that girls and women within your immediate environment are protected from sexual and physical violations by reporting incidents of sexual and physical violation of girls and women whenever they occur;
- Writing to your Member of Parliament and tag them online (if possible) asking them to take deliberate steps in ensuring that the right to education for girls is upheld and that the ban is lifted; and
- Asking your MP to ensure that laws are harmonised so that girls can be protected from sexual and physical violence and also from early, child and forced marriages.
It is indicated that hardly a day goes by without incidents of rape, defilement, physical and mental abuse being reported. In some locations in Zambia, the situation is so dire that an average of 50 violations are recorded per day.
Adolescent and school girls are on the receiving end of these violations, often in traditionally safe spaces such as schools and homes where guardians and caregivers are sometimes the perpetrators. Many girls are raped, sexually abused and harassed by their male teachers and male classmates whenever they go to school. Unfortunately, these incidents are largely unreported owing to the fear of retaliatory attacks, victim shaming as well as an unresponsive legal and education system.
At the same time sexual violence is rooted in deep-seated gender inequalities that exist within the Zambian society. These inequalities dictate the power structures between men and women and also determine how gender relations should take place.
Girls are therefore forced to live with the overwhelming realities of these abuses including psychological, physical, mental and behavioural harm. In addition, the culture of silence worsens the situation by ensuring that girls are locked out of the justice system while at the same time discouraging them from wholly accessing their right to education – sometimes due to pregnancies arising out of these violations. It also reinforces and normalises the existence of sexual and gender based violations in Zambia.
To address the sexual exploitation of girls in Zambia there is need to ensure that these adolescent girls are protected from violations and that they can freely report these. Adolescent girls should not face the additional discrimination of being prohibited from accessing their right to education.
We are advocating for legal and systemic reforms that will drive this discourse and hold the government of Zambia to account.
Please join us in calling upon the President of Zambia Edgar Lungu; the Ministries of Gender; General Education; and Home Affairs to:
- protect adolescent girls from abuse;
- make schools safe for girls;
- and prosecute perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence.
You can also take action to address sexual violence in your community by:
- Ensure that girls and women within your immediate environment are protected from sexual and physical violations by reporting incidents of sexual and physical violation of girls and women whenever they occur;
- Write to your Member of Parliament and tag them online (if possible) asking them to take deliberate steps in ensuring that the right to education for girls is upheld and that the ban is lifted; and
- Ask your MP to ensure that laws are harmonised so that girls can be protected from sexual and physical violence and also from early, child and forced marriages.