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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Child marriage as ‘security’?

thato_motaungAuthor: Thato Motaung
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

International Day of the Girl Child: 11 October 2014

“The female soldiers did everything we did. In addition they were forced to cook for the commanders, wash their clothes, and some were forced to have sex with them.” – Khalid al-Amin on life as a conscript, Aljazeera interview – Escaping Eritrea’s ‘open prison’ (3 October 2014)

The legal age at which a girl can get married in Eritrea is 18 years, however many marry earlier as an act of great desperation.

Child marriage is prohibited in numerous international human rights instruments, namely; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. That said, child marriage is nevertheless rampant on the African continent. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) figures (2013), out of the 20 countries most affected by child marriage, Africa hosts 15. ‘Typical’ drivers of child marriage include customary/traditional beliefs, desire for economic gain or to provide security. I hesitated at the mention of ‘security’ because how does a minor gain security from being forced to engage in sexual reproduction, childbearing and birth within a completely unprepared body and mind?

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