FRW news in brief

    | November 25, 2013

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    1- South Africa: A look behind the statistics of the rape epidemic

    In South Africa, Joan Adams is creating a safe house for child victims of rape and sexual violence. The woman from Klipspruit West, Soweto, has opened her doors to children and receives between 10 and 20 every week.

    Ms. Adams was herself a victim of sexual abuse when she was young, so she understands what these children have been through. She wants to help them heal their physical and psychological wounds.

    An NGO, Shukumisa, did a study in 2010 for Gauteng, the province where Johannesburg and Soweto are located. The statistics were stark. The report states that 25 per cent of women questioned in the study had been raped in their lifetime.

    According to official police statistics, 127 people per 100,000 in the South African population were sexually assaulted last year.Shukumisa fears that most women aren’t reporting sexual violence to the police, so the numbers may be higher.

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    2- Sierra Leone: Fighting gender-based violence

    In Sierra Leone, the former Deputy Education Minister’s trial for rape has brought attention to the increasing amount of domestic and gender-based violence. Already this year, cases brought before the courts have almost reached the total figure for 2012.

    According to police, of the almost 7,000 allegations of rape reported so far this year, only 6 per cent have resulted in convictions. While it is good news that more women are reporting these assaults to police, many in Sierra Leone believe there are many unreported cases of gender-based violence.

    The former minister was charged with rape by a 24-year-old university student. While the woman was testifying, members of the public cursed at her and booed her mother. Naming the woman in the press is illegal, but many prominent newspapers did so. Situations like this can discourage women from coming forward to police.

    A law on sexual offences was enacted in 2012, and earlier this year domestic violence legislation was passed. But the police body organized to investigate this type of crime is said to be understaffed and poorly funded.

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    3- Kenya: Rape victims seek justice

    In Kenya, a group of rape victims recently brought a civil case against some of the country’s highest-ranking officials.

    Eight women have come forward to pursue justice at the High Court in Nairobi because of the failure of the police to investigate rape and sexual violence during post-election violence in 2007-08. The women are suing a number of government officials, including Kenya’s Attorney General and the police Inspector, for not investigating rapists. Several police officers are also among the accused.

    The women are seeking financial compensation and other support such as counselling, and treatment for trauma, HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases. Earlier this year, Kenya’s director of public prosecutions said he is continuing to pursue justice for victims of gender-based violence.

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    4- Tanzania: Better protection for victims of gender-based violence

    For a long time, victims of gender-based violence in Tanzania have suffered in silence. But, since gender-based violence centres have been introduced in Dar es Salaam and on the island of Zanzibar, things have been improving.

    Now, women and child victims can report sexual crimes and receive medical and legal support at what’s being referred to as “a one-stop centre.” The Tanzania Media Women’s Association, or TAMWA, is calling on the government to follow the Southern Africa Development Community’s lead by adopting its protocol on gender and violence in order to strengthen the judicial process in Tanzania.

    Victims of gender-based violence fear reprisals from the men they report to police, and often face health problems and, in some cases, disabilities. In an effort to help victims, TAMWA has begun a gender equality and women’s empowerment program to coincide with the opening of the new centres.

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