"Violence against women is not a side effect of insecurity but insecurity itself"
Naisola Likimani, African Women's Development and Communications Network (FEMNET)
Some interesting debates took place around issues of sexual violence happening in Africa and how much is being done to end the abuse, especially by policy-making bodies including governments, the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the African Union. It was indeed refreshing to listen to the women's rights defenders, meeting from 30th to 31st October in Arusha, Tanzania, exploring the different angles of the agenda during the regional civil society organisations experts meeting on gender based violence.
In the discussions ACORD was focusing on four priority areas namely reparations, laws on sexual violence with specific attention to levels of implementation and accountability by governments for instruments that they have signed, women's participation in peace processes and commitment to investment in the prevention of sexual and gender based violence.
ACORD's representative leads a discussion on investments
in prevention of sexual violence.
ACORD's ongoing work around the sexual and gender based violence index was lauded as a pragmatic intervention where performance by different actors is measured and rewarded or disapproved accordingly. One such example was captured succinctly by Lina Zedriga of the Regional Association for Community Initiatives when she urged the civil society and other women's rights actors to ‘stop the exchange of love letters'. She was referring to protocols, policies and plans which continue to be sent to the ICGLR for implementation but very little transition from rhetoric to practicality has been demonstrated.
Speaking on behalf of Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, Mr. Nathan Byamukama who handles cross-cutting issues at the ICGLR, gave a candid analysis of the wide-spread violence against women describing the Great Lakes Region as a ‘melting-pot' of all forms of insecurity including rape, genocide and armed conflict.
In her opening speech, the Minister for Community and Development, Gender and Children in Tanzania, Honorable Sophia Simba strongly asserted that sexual violence was a barbaric act carried out by what she termed ‘mentally disoriented individuals'. She also acknowledged that although some acts of violence were at times perpetrated by women themselves, like female genital mutilation, it was a known fact that most acts of violence are meted out by men.
Positive Steps in Ending Violence against Women
She highlighted positive strides that have been made specifically in the fight against impunity for sexual violence by noting that rape and many cases of female genital mutilation were being reported to the authorities including the police unlike before. "Increasingly, numbers and statistics on sexual violence are coming out and more than before, they can be accessed by people who are looking for this information. However, we are not out of the woods, there is still a lot to be done", she observed.
In her recommendations, she emphasised the need for more research and studies which provide practical solutions to sexual violence. Others included need for intensive awareness, working in partnerships, lobbying for funds to support survivors of sexual violence and learning from best practices from other countries.
ACORD's synthesis audit of legal practice on sexual violence in the Great Lakes Region titled "Making the Law Count" also recommends among others, that national legislation on sexual crimes and accountability mechanisms be put in place. For Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, these measures may include judicial accountability reports or institutional performance reporting to capture numbers and trends in cases of sexual violence. For Uganda and Burundi, it is recommended that domestic legislation on sexual violence is enforced in reference to the model legislation on the Prevention and Suppression of Sexual Violence against Women and Children of September 2006.
The Arusha meeting is part of a long-drawn preparatory process that began several months ago, ahead of the Special Summit on Sexual and Gender Based Violence to be held in Kampala, Uganda in December 2011. Together with other processes going alongside engaging policy makers in ending impunity and empowering women, ACORD is working closely with the national coordination mechanisms of the ICGLR for the preparation of the Summit and inclusion of national priorities for women's protection.
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