Friday, April 30, 2010

New report shows shocking pattern of rape in eastern Congo

Survey reveals that sixty percent of rape victims gang raped, more than half in their own homes, appalling increase in number of civilian rapists

An extensive study of rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) commissioned by Oxfam and conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, shows that 60 percent of rape victims surveyed were gang raped by armed men and more than half of assaults took place in the supposed safety of the family home at night, often in the presence of the victim’s husband and children.

While the majority of rapists were either soldiers or militiamen, the report also shows a shocking 17-fold increase in rapes carried out by civilians between 2004 and 2008.
The report, "Now, the world is without me", is based on the study by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, which analyzed information collected from 4,311 female rape victims who were treated in Panzi hospital in South Kivu Province over a four-year period.
A wake-up call

The report found that the incidence of rape spiked during military activities. Given the ongoing offensives against militia groups in eastern Congo, the report has real relevance for the situation in DRC today. Over 5,000 people were raped in South Kivu in 2009, according to the UN. The report comes out ahead of the UN Security Council visit to DRC this weekend, with the council set to renew the UN peacekeepers mandate in May.
Krista Riddley, Oxfam's Director of Humanitarian Policy, said:
“Rape of this scale and brutality is scandalous. This is a wake-up call at a time when plans are being discussed for UN peacekeepers to leave the country. The situation is not secure if a woman can’t even sleep safely in her own bed at night. The report shows when and where women are attacked, and why peacekeepers must continue to play a vital role in creating security while the Congolese government builds up its own capacity to keep civilians from harm.”
The study shows that 56 percent of assaults were carried out in the family home by armed men, while 16 percent took place in fields and almost 15 percent in the forest. Fifty-seven percent of assaults were carried out at night. Sexual slavery was also reported, affecting 12 percent of the women in the sample, with some women being held captive for years.

stigma delays treatment

The report also offers insights into the stigma facing women within their families after rape and the problems they face getting medical care. Less than one percent of women came to Panzi hospital with their husbands and nine percent had been abandoned by their spouse. One in three women came alone.
This stigma leads to delays in seeking treatment, with only 12 percent of the women coming to Panzi within a month of the assault. Very few women came for treatment in time to prevent HIV infection. Over 50 percent of women waited more than a year before seeking treatment, with a significant number waiting more than three years.

Krista Riddley from Oxfam said:
“Panzi is the only hospital of its kind in South Kivu, which is home to some 5 million people. Many women from rural areas cannot make the journey and often die from the complications associated with brutal rape. Rich country donors together with the Congolese government need to radically increase the medical services available for survivors of sexual violence in Congo’s remote towns and villages. Every woman should be able to get the treatment she needs.”
The research found that fewer than one percent of rapes were perpetrated by civilians in 2004. By 2008, that proportion had gone up to 38 percent.
Few rapists are prosecuted

Susan Bartels, the study’s lead researcher from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, said, “This study confirms what has only been reported anecdotally until now: sexual violence has become more normal in civilian life. The scale of rape over Congo’s years of war has made this crime seem more acceptable. Although Congo has one of the most progressive laws on rape in Africa, few rapists are prosecuted. The law must be enforced and justice put within reach of survivors.”
The report calls on the Congolese government and the international community to:
Increase provision of medical care for survivors of sexual violence, particularly in rural areas. The easier it is to get help locally, the more likely women will be to get timely support for HIV and the more able they will be to manage the risk of others finding out. Stigma remains a significant barrier to accessing care following sexual violence.

Ensure that the protection provided by the UN peacekeepers and Congolese security services is tailored to local realities. The peacekeepers and security services need to consult with the local community to provide innovative solutions, such as early warning systems and night patrols to help meet their needs. This is happening in some areas and needs to be rolled out more systematically to respond to the threats this report highlights.

Reform the Congolese security sector and justice system to ensure that there is zero tolerance for rape, whether it is committed by civilians, militiamen, or soldiers.
Notes to editors

The research was conducted by Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and funded by Oxfam America.
Just over half of perpetrators - 52 percent - were identified as being armed combatants. Another 42 percent identified only as “assailants,” but the researchers say the analysis of data suggests this group is also composed largely of armed men.

This is a retrospective cohort study conducted at Panzi Hospital. Interviews were conducted on sexual violence survivors as they presented to the hospital between 2004 and 2008. The interviews were conducted in private by trained female officers using a two-paged, semi-structured questionnaire as the victims came in for treatment. Researchers from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative entered the data into an electronic spreadsheet and quantitative as well as qualitative analysis was performed. 4,311 of the 9,709 sexual violence survivors presenting to Panzi Hospital between 2004 and 2008 were interviewed.

The report found that the total number of reported assaults at Panzi hospital had steadily decreased between 2004 to 2008, with military rape decreasing by 77 percent over the same period. However, figures have been affected by a number of particularly serious incidents in 2004, such as one single weekend in June when up to 16,000 women were reportedly raped by military forces in Bukavu.

In 2009, cases of military rape have again surged as a result of the Kimia II military offensive, with over 9,000 people – mostly women and girls, but also men and boys – raped in the affected provinces over the course of the year. Data is not yet available on the levels of rape associated with new military offensives in 2010.

Testimonies from the report (more available from Oxfam):
“It was a night in 2007 and my family and I were sleeping in our home. There was a knock from outside; assailants ordered my husband to open the door. A group of six men in military uniform, four armed with guns and two unarmed, came into the house. They started to loot all our valuables. They took us outside and forced us to follow them to the forest. Once we arrived in the forest, they freed my husband but forced me to continue going deeper into the bush with them. A commander had chosen me to be his wife and he kept me in the forest for seven months, raping me anytime he wanted. Because he did not think I was capable of escaping, he allowed me to wander alone and this is when I escaped.”

“My family and I were all sleeping when the soldiers arrived. They tied my husband’s hands behind his back and then they took turns raping me. Afterwards they took my husband and me to the forest. When my husband resisted they shot and killed him. I spent three weeks in the forest until one night I was able to escape. When I arrived home, I discovered that my little child was dead.”

“My husband and I were sleeping in our house. The children were sleeping in the house next door. The soldiers arrived and brought my daughter to our house where they raped her in the presence of my husband and me. Afterwards they demanded that my husband rape my daughter but he refused so they shot him. Then they went into the other house where they found my three sons. They killed all three of my boys. After killing them, two soldiers raped me one after the other,”

“We found them in our house. They pillaged everything. They put my husband on the bed and beat him. Then two of the soldiers raped me. This story is so tragic - I can’t believe this happened to me. I prefer death instead of life. Now, the world is without me because of my situation.”

Contact information

For more information and interviews contact
Rebecca Wynn on + 44 (0) 7769 887139 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting + 44 (0) 7769 887139 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting + 44 (0) 7769 887139 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting + 44 (0) 7769 887139 end_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting or

Liz Lucas on +1 617 785 7772 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +1 617 785 7772 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +1 617 785 7772 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +1 617 785 7772 end_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting or


Monday, April 12, 2010

WODD Secretary General on Women in Democratic Governance

This is a paper presented by Mrs. Amie Sillah Sarr, Secretary General of Women for Democracy and Development (WODD) on the celebrations of the International Women’s Day organised by the Gambia Teachers Union (GTU) Women’s Wing on Wednesday, 7th April, 2010 at its headquarters in Kanifing.

“My Paper deals with Women’s PARTICIPATION IN DEMOCRATIC

The Gambia’s statistics on Democratic Governance is not quite impressive. 33.3% of women occupy Cabinet posts. That is six women out of a Cabinet of 18 persons, including the Vice President. Less than 10% of women occupy a National Assembly of 53 Persons. That is 2 elected and 2 nominated, including the Speaker of The National Assembly. The picture at the Local Government level is also dismal.

The Gambia ratified the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993. The CEDAW Protocol is not signed by The Gambia Government. The Protocol to the Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa known as the Maputo Protocol is ratified in 2005.

At first with reservations but with further lobbying and advocacy, the reservations were lifted up. The Gambia is yet to domesticate and implement the Articles of CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol in the form of a Women’s Bill which should be tabled before the National Assembly for enactment into law to be used by our law courts to protect women’s rights.

The Gambia has a plural legal system consisting of Legislative, Customary and Islamic Sharia Law. The three bodies of law create contradictions and inconsistencies and there are very discriminatory provisions in all three sources of law, particularly in the areas of family and property law.

There are the three arms of Government - The Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Fourth Estate, which has a ‘Watch dog’ role is the Media and which under a democratic disposition should hold all the three arms of Government Accountable and Transparent to the people.

Women should be in the Executive as a President, a Vice President or hold Cabinet positions. Women can form Political Parties if they have the clout and the qualification. In the Gambia, the Executive should be encouraged to appoint more capable women for Cabinet posts. The ruling and opposition parties should fill in capable female candidates and create a conducive environment for it to happen.

More quality women of divergent views are needed in the National Assembly to carry forward the Gender and Good Governance debate.

In the Judiciary, The Gambia has registered a lot of successes. There are more women in the Legal System. There are more women Magistrates and Justices.

In the Media, more women are now working for the media but few occupy the top echelon in both the Print and Electronic Media, be it Public or Private. The Gambia has to work hard to change the situation.

In 2005, the illiteracy rate for Women was estimated at 65.8%. This situation is a challenge for Civic Education and Good Governance. Women come out impressively to vote in all elections but fail to vote for Gender and Good Governance. Instead Women votes are cast on sentiments and other parochial considerations.

The participation of women in the labour market is low, especially in the Formal Sector and the decision making positions.

In 2005, it was estimated that Women made up only 4.9% of the Formal Sector, while they represent 6 1.9% of the Informal Sector.

The Gambia 1997 Constitution

Section 28: The Rights of Women: (1) Women shall be accorded full and equal dignity of the person with men.

(2) Women shall have the right to equal treatment with men, including equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.

De jure, (by law) women are backed by the Constitution to effectively participate at all levels of democratic governance but de facto(what pertains on the ground) culture and tradition are debilitating factors barring women from effective participation.



(1) State Parties shall take specific positive action to promote participative governance and the equal participation of women in the political life of their countries through affirmative action, enabling national legislation and other measures to ensure that:

a) women participate without any discrimination in all elections;

b) women are represented equally at all levels with men in all electoral processes;

c) Women are equal partners with men at all levels of development and implementation of state policies and development programmes.

(2) State Parties shall ensure increase and effective representation and participation of women at all levels of decision making.

Art 17: Right to Positive Cultural Context

(1) Women shall have the right to live in a positive cultural context and to participate at all levels in the determination of Cultural Policies.

(2) (2) State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to enhance the participation of women in the formulation of Cultural Policies at all levels.

Art 13: Economic and Social Welfare Rights

State Parties shall adopt and enforce legislative and other measures to guarantee women equal opportunities in work and career advancement and other economic opportunities. In this respect, they shall:

a) promote equality of access to employment;

b) promote the right to equal remuneration for jobs of equal value for men and women;

c) ensure transparency in recruitment, promotion and dismissal of women nd combat and punish sexual harassment in the workplace;

d) guarantee women freedom to choose their occupation and protect them from exploitation by their employers violating and exploiting their fundamental rights as recognised and guaranteed by Conventions, laws and regulations in force;

e) create conditions to promote and support the occupations and economic activities of women in particular within the informal sector;

f) Establish a system of protection and social insurance for women working in the informal sector and sensitise them to adhere to it.

g) Introduce a minimum age for work and prohibit the employment of children below that age, and prohibit, combat and punish all forms of exploitation of children, especially girl-child.

h) Take the necessary measures to recognise the economic value of the work of women in the home;

i) Guarantee adequate pay and pay pre and post natal maternity leave in both private and public sectors;

j) Ensure the equal application of taxation laws to women and men;

k) Recognise and enforce the right of salaried women to the same allowances and entitlements as those granted to salaried men for their spouses and children;

1) Recognise that both parents bear the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of children and that this is a social function for which the state and the private sector have secondary responsibility;

m) Take effective legislative and administrative measures to prevent the exploitation and abuse of women in advertising and pornography.

The Gambia Government has ratified but is yet to domesticate, implement the Maputo Protocol and the CEDAW to protect the rights of women in The Gambia. The Activists in the Africa Coalition, The Gambia included, are now urging the Gambia Government to enact the Women’s Bill which consists all the above into an Act of The National Assembly, to be domesticated into our laws, to be used in the courts to protect women’s rights.

Female teachers are catalysts in the women struggle. They act as role models in the communities they are posted to. Children listen more to their teachers than their parents. As female teachers, we should encompass the trait of being a Scientist, being a researcher, a continuous learner; the role of a Saint, promote virtues by practicing it so as not to confuse children by preaching virtue and practicing evil.

To be a Servant, to serve your pupils, students at all times. How we organise our homes also tells a story of who we are.

This year’s theme for the Celebrations is “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities; Progress for all” is very apt. Just as I keep on saying, Society is like a bird with two wings, Masculine and Feminine Gender. Can the bird fly with one wing? The obvious answer is a big ‘No’! Look at a woman as your Sister, your Mother and your Daughter. You want them to excel. The other woman too should excel, “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, and Progress for all.”

I thank you all all.

Friday, April 2, 2010

US Embassy holds Public Lecture

In honour of the International Women's Month and the activities marking it, the United States Embassy in Banjul on Monday held a two-hour public lecture, attended by female students from different secondary schools in The Gambia.
The lecture held at the Girls Guide hall along the MDI Road in Kanifing was aimed at encouraging female secondary school students to understand the important role each of them play in determining the cause of their lives.
The Guest Speaker at the occasion was Madam Sagarr Jahateh, a legal practitioner and former magistrate.
In her lecture, Lawyer Jahateh disclosed that women in Africa are mainly oppressed, and noted that they are the most vulnerable segment of society, due to factors such as cultural values. She added that women are often verbally and physical abused.
She also stated that the socio-economic status of women was also another contributing factor that retards their contribution to national development. She however noted that with pride women in The Gambia have contributed immensely towards the socio-economic development of the country.
"Today, women play an important role in The Gambia because women take part in key decision-making process, in upbringing families at home, agriculture, among others," she stated.
According to her, women have the fundamental rights as men, whom she added, include the right to education, health, right not to be discriminated against, among others.
She said African leaders have been tasked to promote the rights of women when they met in Abuja and proposed a platform of women, where gender equality was strongly emphasised.
In The Gambia, Lawyer Jahateh added, a lot of progress has been made, because women occupy decision-making positions in the government. She added that women are now joining the legal sector, occupying positions like magistrates, judges and lawyers.
She expressed the need for children and women to be protected against cultural practices, like Female Genital Multilation (FGM), saying that women need help. She described women as very hard working, despite all the challenges and constraints facing them.
Madam Cindy Cregg, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Banjul hailed Sagarr for her brilliant lecture, describing her as an asset.
source: point news paper

Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.