Friday, November 26, 2010


by Fatou C Malang

2010 marks the twentieth year of the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign”. The campaign began in 1991 and originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute, sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University.The main idea of the campaign is to draw attention at a local, national and global level to the different forms of violence that women face. It aims to show the link between violence against women and human rights highlighting that such violence is a human rights violation; Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day against Violence against Women, and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a human rights violation.  

The international theme for the 2010 16 Days Campaign is Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women. Militarism defined “as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression, or military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests.” It was not only examined in the context of war zones but also at the home level and areas where military- linked forms of violence may be hidden from the public eye. It is a psychology that often has grave consequences for the true safety and security of women and of society as a whole.

There is a need to address militaristic beliefs in all of our societies. Rape is used as a tactic of war to drive fear and to humiliate women and their communities. But sexual violence is just one form of violence that women and girls suffer throughout the continuum of violence before, during and after conflict has ostensibly ended. Militarism neither ends nor begins in warzones, nor does it confine itself to the public sphere.

Women do not often wage war, but they often suffer the worst of its consequences. In many of today's conflicts, women are disempowered by rape or the threat of it, and by the HIV infection, trauma and disabilities that often result from it. As women become a vulnerable sector for violence, they became easy targets of inflictions. Recalling the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 157 Guineans on the 28th of September 2009 where Hundreds of women and girls were subjected to brutal, barbaric acts of sexual violence. In the last ten years in Congo, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, most of them gang raped. Abduction, rape and sexual slavery of girls and women have been among the most abhorrent and distressing features of the nine-year internal armed conflict in Sierra 


The rape statistics for South Africa have gone up instead of down over the past years. Women in the Sudanese region of Darfur have been raped since the start of the conflict there in 2003 .There is a code of silence surrounding rape in Senegambia, with many cases going unreported. The Gambia has witnessed a series of rapes against women and children of late. "The Kolda region of senegal had 211 cases in 2008, of which half were rapes of pupils by teachers and resulting in pregnancies. A 19-year old Ghanaian girl was raped in the full glare of the public at Kumasi-Asafo. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes to mention but a few.

Violence against women is widespread in every corner of the globe: from the bedroom to the battlefield. Women and girls suffer many forms of violence, including genital mutilation, rape, beatings by their partners, families or killings in the name of honor. 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. It is one of the most pervasive of human rights violations, denying women and girls’ equality, security, dignity, self-worth, and their right to enjoy fundamental freedoms. It is shocking that in women’s lifetime, up to 76 per cent are subject to physical and/or sexual violence within intimate relationships.

Discrimination in law, social practice and attitude, impunity and apathy are the underlying causes of violence against women and girls. In many countries, laws, policies and practices discriminate against women and girls, denying them equality with men, politically, economically and socially. Social roles reinforce the power of men over women’s lives and bodies, while traditions and customs subjugate women and leave them vulnerable to violence.

Domestic violence, being the most prevalent yet relatively hidden and ignored form of violence against women and girls is a global problem. Marital rape is domestic violence and is not justifiable on the basis of consent. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), violence affects millions of women in Africa.  In a 2005 study on women’s health and domestic violence, the WHO found that 50 percent of women in Tanzania and 71 per cent of women in Ethiopia’s rural areas reported beatings or other forms of violence by husbands or other intimate partners. In South Africa, reports Amnesty International, about one woman is killed by her husband or boyfriend every six hours. In Zimbabwe, six out of  10 murder cases tried in the Harare High Court in 1998 were related to domestic violence. In Kenya, the attorney 

general’s office reported in 2003 that domestic violence accounted for 47 per cent of all homicides.

In conclusion, peacekeeping forces in conflict zones should put special emphasis on protecting women around areas where they are most vulnerable to rape and other sexual violence. I firmly believe that we all have a role to play in alleviating violence against women in our different communities by mobilizing and sensitizing our people on the different forms of violence’s against women and ways of eliminating them with the support of our governments.

Fatou C. Malang- Fatou is a Gambian gender activist and an emerging voice on issues of women’s rights  and equality in Africa. She is the founder of the “Stop Violence Against Women Blog”. Fatou was recognized as a 2009 MILEAD Fellows- as an outstanding young African women leader.

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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.