Mustapha K darboe
A young Gambian women’s activist has warned that the prevalence of ’widespread’ violence against women in the country could threaten its future development efforts.
Absa Samba, 20, said if no urgent solution is fetched, violence against women would further widen the existing economic inequality between men and women.
“Women in Gambia are harmed and their rights abused in several ways. There is a survey that reveals that 75% of rural women in the country think that to be beaten by your husband is a sign of affection – they don’t have a problem with it. That shows the level of ignorance on the part of women.
The effects of violence against women will hunt us in no small scale because in development, women and men are equally important. In fact, women’s empowerment is about development, and we cannot develop as a country if more than 50 per cent of our population has their fundamental rights abused this way. Violence against women affects the growth of children and thus threatens the future of the society.
“Children brought up in homes where there is violence against women are often raised believing that the act is normal. Violence against women also affects the women psychologically – it made them believe that they are inferior. As a result, women themselves subconsciously embrace and advocate for male dominance. When a woman is praying for a fellow woman in this country they will tell you “may you have a bouncing baby-boy”. This is because the society made them believe men are superior to women.
“The Gambia has been walking on one leg for too long – men have been taking the lead. There is progress in terms of women’s empowerment, but it is unduly slow. There is high level of economic inequality between men and women in the country and it is going to widen further if nothing is done. Violence against women also widen economic inequality. Take early marriage for instance- it shut down women’s capacity to pursue economic independence and also affects their social wellbeing. Violence also limits women’s capacity to take political leadership positions.”
Absa is of the view that the government’s much in combating violence against women is not enough.
She explained: “I won’t say that the Government has not been doing well in the protection of women’s rights but a lot more needs to be done. Also, NGOs should be given more space in raising the awareness of the people.
“Some of the women who are subjected to violence and abuse are not even aware that their rights are being abuse- especially rural women. These people need to be empowered by the government with the information they need to protect themselves,” she said.
“Another aspect is the lack of sensitisation on laws protecting the rights of women in the country. It is one thing to sign international protocols and institute laws that seek to protect women, but it is a different thing to make women who are affected aware of these laws and international protocols. Much leaves to be desired in that respect. Even though NGOs are doing a lot in this area, but Government as the primary duty bearer should show political will beyond public statements. There should be a comprehensive
database that could make us understand the actual number of women that are subjected to violence in the country; help us know the people most affected; and which part of the country they reside. This would help us apply the right approaches.
“There is a need for the NGOs and the Government to collaborate more in the fight to ending violence against women in the country. I think some of the NGOs also need a review of their approaches towards eradicating violence against women. The advocacy has taken long and if the progress is slow, we should look inward. The government should also set-up a good database on violence against women in the country because lots of it goes unreported. Besides, the law cannot self-implement. It should be implemented by the people and the Government holds the primary duty. There is also a need for more sensitisation.”
Meanwhile, during their appearance before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, on June 24, The Gambia presented the following facts on violence against women in the country.
GBV cases recorded from January to June 2014
|No.||Institution||No. of cases||Type of GBV cases|
|1||Department of Social Welfare||29||• 15 Sexual Violence
• 6 Physical Violence
• 8Emotional/Psychological (forced marriage, 1early marriage, 2 domestic Violence cases)
|2||Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital||30||• Cases include physical and sexual violence|
|3||Ministry of Justice||20||• Sexual Violence (rape and defilement)|
|4||Female Lawyers Association Gambia||6||• 6 cases including physical and emotional, 1 successfully prosecuted, 5 withdrawn|
|5||Serrekunda Hospital||18||• 9 Sexual Violence, 9 Physical Violence (1 against a man)|
|6||Police Gender & Child Welfare Unit||21||• 13 rape cases, 2 attempted rape cases, 1 indecent assault case, 5 defilement of girls under 16 years of age
• 19 of the cases are children under 18years
• 9 are below 11 years
• 10 are between 11 & 16 years
• 2 are adults — 18 and 19 years