Addressing gender-based violence against women and children in Africa

Author: Kwasi Asiedu Abrokwah
Operational Supervisor, Prime Legacy Construction Pty; Communications Director, The Great People of South Africa

Introduction

Gender-based violence (GBV) is defined as violence that is directed against a person on the basis of their gender or sex, including acts that inflict physical, mental, or sexual harm (intimate partner violence or non-intimate partner violence), suffering threats of such acts, coercion and deprivations of liberty. According to the United Nations Women’s Organisation (UNWomen), it is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. In the West African region, Liberia, Cote d´Ivoire and Sierra Leone are examples of countries where GBV were used as weapons of war. GBV has been a huge problem in Africa where women and children are violated by men. GBV occurs in various forms, including femicide, female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence and kidnapping. It may also occur in the form of socio-economic violence, including discrimination and denial of opportunities or services on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation.

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When policy isn’t enough: Examining accessibility of sexual and reproductive health rights for displaced populations in South Africa

Author: Lidya Stamper
Research Fellow, Centre of Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The right to sexual and reproductive health services (SRHS) is a fundamental human right for all, guaranteed under international human rights law. Legal protections outlining these rights have been recognised in South Africa through international, regional and domestic instruments. More specifically, these protections are highlighted and specified in documents such as the ‘Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Despite the presence of these legal frameworks, outlining equality and non-discrimination, persistent inequalities continue to act as barriers to exercising SRHS. Legislative and policy advances in SRH have been undermined by a lack of successful implementation and improvements in service delivery, service accessibility, and service availability. Implementation challenges combined with a fragmented health sector have resulted in various obstacles including a lack of standardised care, gaps in the dissemination of information, overburdened health facilities, and provider opposition. Social conditions such as gender inequality, poor access to health services, and provider attitudes continue to reinforce these barriers, undermining many of the intended outcomes of the existing legislative and policy advances in the SRH realm.

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Accelerating efforts to combat the rise of sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya

Author: Juliet Nyamao
Human Rights Attorney, Kenyan Bar

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that runs yearly from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, International Human Rights Day. The period is observed in many African countries including Kenya, culminating in a colorful thematic event on the last day of the campaign. During this period, governments may reevaluate their national policies and action plans to completely eradicate practices that discriminately affect women in the community. This campaign provides an opportune moment to create awareness, on a worldwide scale, of the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and to galvanise support to curtail its escalation to pandemic proportions. 

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‘Why you say negro?’ Racism in football: the PSG v Basaksehir incident, an all-time low for football?

Author: Foluso Adegalu
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

For football lovers, the Union of Eurpean Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League is arguably the biggest football competition. While there are divided opinions as to whether the tournament is bigger than the FIFA World Cup, it is undisputedly the biggest competition at the club level. Following some disruptions to the competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group stage of the 2020-21 season commenced on 20 October 2020. The final round of matches for the group stage were scheduled for 8-9 December. One of the group stage matches scheduled for 8 December was the Group H tie between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) of France and Istanbul Başakşehir F.K. (Başakşehir) of Turkey. The match was scheduled to be played at Parc des Princes, the home ground of the French club.

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The future of technology: a human rights perspective

Author: Tatiana Makunike
Freelance writer

From a constructive perspective, technology has the potential to significantly contribute to the progress of the human rights agenda, especially in Africa. Healthcare, education, emerging laws that restrict freedom of speech, and abuses by armed groups are some of the Human rights issues that technology could positively impact. Technology is increasingly becoming the backbone of most infrastructures and playing an important role in modern humanity; so automatically, its necessity as a tool for human rights has also increased.

The need for digital structures that improve the predictions of pressing human rights situations is evident. Fortunately, the tools for analysing the situations and strategising ideal responses exist and continue to improve. For instance, remote sensing and satellite data analysis systems now  identify patterns indicating humanitarian disasters and displaced groups which may be useful when monitoring inaccessible areas or countries such as Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia which are currently home to over 3 million refugees. Decentralised technologies like BlockChain are also proving valuable when it comes to eliminating labor exploitation issues in certain supply chains and forensic technology can reconstruct crime scenes.

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Hot water: Treasure hunters vs the law

Author: Ross Booth
LLB student, University of KwaZulu-Natal

The ocean is an enormous place. In fact, its enormity is estimated to cover an area of 361 million square metres and hold around 97% of the earth’s water. It is thus no surprise that things are sometimes lost to the gargantuan depths. However, what happens when they are found?

Modern-day treasure hunting has become a high-risk-high-reward field, but it seems that in many cases, the risk vastly outweighs the reward. Most people, infatuated by the possibility of discovering sunken fortunes, fail to realise the implications that could arise if they do. In fact, the law has made it virtually impossible to keep the entirety of one’s treasure hunting loot – if any portion at all.

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Africa is bleeding: The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon

Author: Mary Izobo
International Human Rights Lawyer and Gender Advocate

Introduction

The failure to promote the rule of law and democracy creates an environment for conflict, often exacerbated by marginalisation, discrimination,  inequality and inequity. The bitterness of citizens roused by violence is usually entrenched in lack of basic services and public infrastructure, corruption, lack of personal and economic security and lack of transparency and accountability of government to its citizens.  Thus, the greatest problem of African countries is their failure to protect the economic, political, social, and cultural concerns of its people. This year, 2020 has been marred by a series of human rights violations from Lagos to Kumba, Africa is bleeding.

On 24 October 2020, at least eight children were killed, and dozens wounded by a group of armed men at the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy  Kumba, in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. There has been a lot of attacks in Cameroon since 2016, however, these attacks have intensified dramatically.

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Attempts at constitutional reform in The Gambia: Whither the Draft Constitution?

Author: Satang Nabaneh
Post-doctoral Fellow, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

The Gambia’s constitution-drafting process, aimed at ushering in a third Republic, has reached an unfortunate dead-end. More than two years after the constitutional review process began, and after a highly acrimonious and polarised debate in the National Assembly, Parliament, one week ago (on 22 September 2020), rejected the proposed Constitution Promulgation Bill, 2020 (‘the Bill’). The Bill would have enabled the eventual promulgation the Constitution of the Gambia, 2020 (‘Draft Constitution’) and the repeal of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, 1997 (‘1997 Constitution’). Twenty-three lawmakers in the National Assembly voted against the Bill, while thirty-one supported it. This was, however, not a big enough majority to meet the threshold requirement of three-quarters of members needed to effect constitutional change. The Draft Constitution could, therefore, not be put to a referendum.

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Adolescent girls and young women have a right to know: Accessing information on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the wake of COVID-19

Author: Kerigo Odada
Human Rights Lawyer; LLM (Sexual & Reproductive Rights in Africa) student, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

For many adolescent girls and young women around the world, adolescence marks not only the commencement of puberty, but also a time where statistically, the risk of facing human rights abuses such as sexual violence, exploitation, and other adverse outcomes of sex increases. However, despite this high predisposition to abuse, adolescent girls and young women still face multiple barriers in accessing information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Discriminatory cultural values, laws, and policies that are driven by the stigma attached to sexuality have made it challenging for members of this social group to enjoy full access to much needed SRHR information.

As of April 2020, about 1.725 billion students worldwide were forced out of learning institutions due to COVID-19. Although the closure of schools and other lockdown measures were strategic in controlling the spread of COVID-19, this situation unfortunately meant that many adolescent girls and young women were now confined in homes where they were, and still are, at a heightened risk of prolonged sexual abuse, exploitation and negative outcomes of sex.

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Ending child marriage: A call to action

Author: Mary Izobo
International Human Rights Lawyer and Gender Advocate

Introduction

The International Day of the Girl Child is commemorated globally every year on 11 October since 2012 to highlight the injustices girls face based on their gender, while advancing the fulfilment of their rights, development and wellbeing. The United Nations theme for  the International Day of the Girl Child 2020 is ‘My voice, our equal future.’ There is a specific emphasis on the girl child because there is a direct form of discrimination against girls who are often deprived of their fundamental human rights. Millions of girls from birth are discriminated against on the grounds of sex and gender. This year, as we commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, it is important to bring to the world’s attention, child marriage which continues to be an unending anathema that serves as a challenge in the fulfilment and enjoyment of the rights and welfare of the girl child.

Child marriage is the marriage of a child before he or she turns 18 years of age. It is a global phenomenon that continues to obstruct the wellbeing of young boys and girls. Child marriage affects both boys and girls, but nine in ten children married off before they turn 18 years are girls. Every two seconds, a girl is married off, before she is physically, psychologically or emotionally developed enough to become a bride or mother. An estimated 650 million women and girls in the world today were married before they turned 18 years and one-third of these women and girls were married off before they turned 15 years. According to United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), out of the world’s population, 1.1 billion are girls and 22 million of them are married off before they attain adulthood.

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