Rape, sodomy, defilement and among other gender-based inhumane violations are all vices referring to men. It is strange but factual
Despite stringent laws enacted to curb gender-related violations, violence against women and girls remains endemic in most parts of Africa.
These grave actions are the most shameful human rights violation, and perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture, or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.
Should we pretend not cognizant of the rising problem? And maybe am addressing a perpetrator, victim or just like me, you have consistently witnessed images of the orgy of violence vented on women branded to be habitual news — not a day passes without media documenting irksome reports; a woman was sexually and physically assaulted by the husband after a domestic squabble, or a minor older than the age of infancy was defiled by own father.
Surely, where is the parental love, care and protection if fathers can rape their own children and kill their wives? Something somewhere is just not right. As a young aspiring father of a daughter in future, I sincerely cannot stand the face of tattered sexual organs resulting from defilement or rape perpetrated to our beloved women.
These beastly acts of violence against women results into nostalgic perpetual pain and suffering that results to physical injuries and psychological trauma. The victims undergo expensive, painful and extensive preferential reconstructive surgery initiated in trying to rebuild urinary, genital, abdominal, or tracheal systems.
I strongly believe that if the girl next door is a victim of sexual terror and other beastly forms of abuse, then it is just a matter of time and your own daughter, sister, mother and wife will be in the same situation. Men, we are involved and we are the ones to stop these escalating gender-based violations.
Many men and women say that rape cannot occur in relationships; however, one in four women report having been abused by an intimate partner. There are several outrageous incidents of news stories and events dealing with abuse against women that garnered a lot of local and to some, international attention. Though, majority cases are not featured in the press; they stand unreported to the authorities and therefore fail to be addressed in public.
A great number of victims cite fearing reprisals, embarrassment and others feel that the police would not be able to solve the crime by convicting the perpetrators, despite being men well known to the victim.
For instance, the current president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was once accused of raping the HIV-positive 31-year-old daughter of a family friend in November 2005 before he was president. He was found innocent by the court in 2006, yet he did admit to consensual unprotected sex with the woman. This event was widely covered by the press.
Atrocities of such caliber rarely do happen through a glass ceiling for everyone to see. What distresses most is that, despite these crucial violations being brought into public limelight, nothing major is done to the perpetrators who always think every woman and girl is easy pray for their sexual perversions. As long as this continues, I will forever regard the police as symbols of the oppressors.
Exploitation and harassment against women is also reported to occur in schools by teachers and other students. According to the Human Rights Watch, girls from all levels of society and ethnic groups have been subjected to sexual violence at school in bathrooms, empty classrooms, dormitories, and more.
Police, prosecutors, and social workers have complained that many incidents of such violence in schools are not reported to them because schools often prefer to deal with it internally, thus hindering justice against the perpetrators.
The danger of sexual violence in schools has created a barrier for girls to seek education and has lowered the girls’ school performance after such incidents of abuse. A woman in South Africa for instance is more likely to get raped than educated, according to statistics.
So far no attempts have been made to address these large statistical disparities. A great number of female school drop-outs have increased tremendously over the years.
Young girls after successfully graduating from colleges, they seek employment in order to sustain themselves financially. The male bosses they get in offices ask them for sex in exchange of employment. With limited job opportunities available, these desperate girls give in.
Their job is always at stake, they stand to be fired at anytime especially when other females seek employment in the same office and the boss gets attracted to them sexually.
Human trafficking is another major problem women are exposed to. They are promised high paying job opportunities abroad by unregistered agencies. On arrival at the prescribed destiny, they are subjected to sexual slavery, a job they did not apply for.
Here women suffer being over-tasked by their employers, physical, psychological and economic abuse. When women are subjected to sexual slavery in such desperate situations, their dignity is violated and they are subjected to a torturous life.
Pornography is termed illegal business compared to cocaine possession in most countries of the world. Young girls have been used to posse naked or scantly-dressed in magazines. They are also used in recording erotic music videos and to act porn movies. In the making, the girls experience exhibitionism and voyeurism.
Oral and anal intercourse is involved when making these obscene footages; they stand high chances of contracting viral and bacterial diseases. Their dignity is tarnished in the society as they are involved in these shameful practices, they are branded as prostitutes.
Married women are vulnerable in terms of property rights. In the majority of cases, there is an assumption that property belongs to men. The woman has to prove that actually she contributed to the property. The marriage and divorce bill is therefore an assurance for these women to safeguard their rights of ownership and property disposition.
Once put in to full law, it will transform the livelihood of women and give them an opportunity to make informed decisions without fear of getting impoverished. For years, women’s right to freedom is curtailed by inhuman, degrading and discriminating treatment that infringes their equality before the law and family rights.
Young girls have been forced into traditional cultural practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Virgin cleansing is another widespread practice. A significant contributing factor for the escalation in child abuse is the widespread myth in HIV ravage.
It is a myth to believe that having sex with a virgin will cure a man of AIDS. A woman being raped has a one in four chance that her attacker is HIV positive and more women than men are affected from HIV/AIDS. The child abusers are often relatives of their victims and are at times their fathers or providers.
When I was in the process of compiling this story, I was privileged to meet Laura (pseudonym), a 19-year old who decided to confide to me her sufferings in the hands of men.
When I first met her, my mind screamed in the deafening silence that only health professionals would have the stomach for the assault in her senses, Laura was frail or rather timid to tell me her story. She revealed that she was adducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels when she was barely 9 years old.
While in captivity, and living in the bush for two years, Laura was raped by the rebels and saw her parents killed in cold blood by the LRA. Now back home, she lives with a paternal aunt. Unfortunately her suffering continues.
Both she and her aunt are constantly physically, emotionally and socio-economically abused by her aunt’s husband who is always drunk. “Bars and brothels are his second home,” Laura noted. Anyone sober would expect the obscene phone calls made in her presence.
The physical violence is extreme. It has left scars and chronic injuries on Laura. The uncle even once attempted to rape her. When she was 16 years old, the same uncle then tried to forcefully marry her to an old man (who was equally supposed to be like a father to her) in order to receive bride price money. He forced her to spend the night with that man, who then raped her.
“I could not take it any longer; I refused to stay with the forced husband and went back to my aunt’s place as I had nowhere else to run to,” Laura narrated. She got pregnant as a result of the rape and became a single mother. At her aunt’s place the domestic violence from her uncle continued.
“When my aunt tried to protect me from uncle’s beatings, she was also severely assaulted questioned as to why she defended me,” Laura recalls. The uncle consistently threatened to kill them and bring in another wife.
A highly-trained counselor through a local NGO in Uganda, assessed Laura’s mental health status and found out that as a result of many traumatic experiences, she was suffering from chronic post traumatic stress disorder, with suicidal tendencies. She immediately underwent trauma focused psychological treatment, called Narrative Exposure Therapy.
During the therapy, Laura talked about her life from birth to present with focus on traumatic events. She has been checked for physical injuries and given medication and is now recuperating.
Many women out there have stories to tell just like Laura, but access to legal aid and continued impunity for perpetrators, the road to justice for them is usually inadequate or dismissive responses by police, medical and judicial personnel, making them reluctant to report violence to the authorities.
Women are entitled to respect and protection of their rights just like men. However, they are prone to violation because of gender relations and status in society hence needs special protection.
What can be done to curb gender-based violations
- People violate the law because they do not know it. Men should be engaged in seminar programmes where women are involved to make them understand that law is a mechanism for resolving disputes.
- Embody principles of equality in the constitution.
- Including where appropriate sanctions prohibiting gender discrimination.
- Establishing effective legal protection through competent national tribunals.
- Changing legislation and abolishing existing laws that constitute discrimination.
- Incorporating gender perspective and balance into peace operations.
- Promoting the participation of the citizenry (women, men, youth and the private sector).
- Promoting women in socio-economic development and business.
- Governments to ensure that all reports of violence committed are thoroughly investigated and the alleged perpetrators brought to justice, and that superiors in accordance with international humanitarian law, use their authority and powers to prevent violence, including by combating impunity.
- Debunking myths that fuel violence against women and vetting candidates for national armies and security forces to ensure the exclusion of those associated with serious violations of human rights law.
- States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.
- Woman be treated with all the regard due to their sex and in all cases benefit by treatment as favorable as that granted to men.
- Victims to have their cases considered with the utmost priority.
- To the maximum extent feasible, states should endeavor to avoid the pronouncement of death penalty on pregnant women or mothers having dependent infants.
By Michael Wandati