FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

26 November 2012

Gambia: Sexual, Gender Based Violence Training in Commemoration of 16 Days Activism Against Gender-Based Violence At GAFNA

The ceremony was opened by Mr. Malang Ceesay, Coordinator Refugee Programme, and Amie Sillah as a Resource person; Isatou Dibba as the Facilitator. In attendance were 40 refugees comprising women, girls, men and boys. The sessions were interactive, focused with practical role plays on the topical issues.

At the end of the two days deliberations, a male youth, Ebrima Jarjue who gave the vote of thanks summed it like this: "We have gain Knowledge, got vital information from our resource persons, we promise you this that we will speak out against Violence against women and girls in our communities, in our homes and our schools; we felt empowered, thank you very much." Ebrima also sang peace songs which animated the sessions. Kine Jatta, a female youth said this: "I'll pose questions to the female and male youths in attendance here." "Do we see ourselves as agents of change?" "Have we gained sufficient information and knowledge?" "To the girl-children, we ask for rights do we march them with responsibilities? Will we allow our souls be corrupted by irresponsible peers?" "Will we take heed and utilize the good counseling our elders and parents give us? I pause for answers." She went on; "Internet should be use responsibly as it has good and bad influence; I.T e.g. mobiles phones are given to us for security not to be misused to connect with boyfriends." She counseled fellow girl youths. There was a round of applause for both youth.

Definition: Sexual Violence:Sexual assault includes various forms of sexual violence against women. Rape is one of the most extreme forms of sexual assault. Definition of rape may vary from one country to the next. In South Africa rape is define as the penetration to have carnal knowledge, and does not include penetration by foreign objects or other body parts. However this definition is currently being reviewed and will include a wide variety of sexual assault such as anal and oral penetration. In the Gambia it is the same, the male organ has to penetrate and without consent. Relevant section: 121 of the Criminal Code. Punishment up to life imprisonment. Attempted rape punishment is 7years.

Variations: Indecent assault: date rape, stranger rape, mental rape, statutory rape, incest.

Gender Issues

The fact that women are affected by rape, nine out of ten times, makes it a gender issue. Rape disproportionally affects women, and is a direct result of men's desire to exert control and power over women. Nowhere is the gendered nature of law more pronounced than in rape. From date rape to gang rape, power, not sex is the motivation.

In reporting rape, it is not unusual for women to be termed 'victims' which reinforces negative stereotypes about women as passive and weak. As a result gender activists have pushed for use of the word 'survivor'. This is however yet to be acknowledge by the criminal justice system and society in general. Rape victims feel humiliated and degraded, rape 'survivors' may suffer denial, which may result in non-reporting of the crime. For many 'survivors' fear may dominate their lives and all this may result in them suffering from a form of 'post-traumaticstress' that is called 'Rape Trauma Syndrome'.

Legal issues

Due to the poor treatment of women by the legal system, many women do not report when they have been rape. As a result accused get off scot-free. Where women do report cases of rape, the accused may still go scot-free for the following reasons;

- Too much emphasis placed on the issue of the consent and a woman often not believe when she says she did not consent, especially where she may know the rapist;

- Insufficient evidence due to the 'private' nature of the crime and the fact that women get rid of important evidence when she cleans herself after the rape.

- As a 'single witness' the woman's evidence is treated with caution.

- Where women are mentally disabled, they are considered incapable of giving evidence and without their crucial evidence, the case is dropped and the accused is acquitted.

Stereotypes

Media stereo types: Where the media reports on sexual violence, the impression is created that the woman asked for it or she is almost invisible in the bigger picture. Consider the following headlines:

- "Soldier rapes maid three times"

- "Four young rapists sentenced to spend 15 years behind bars."

- "The manager who allegedly raped his maid still free." Here the 'survivors' are invisible.

Legal stereotypes

The law favours the accused and is based in the myth about women and rape. This is reflected in countries where the law does not recognize all forms of sexual violations as rape. Only as 'indecent assault'. Other stereotypes include the fact that a woman is often not believed when she says she did not consent, more especially where the accused and the 'survivor' were intimate.

In rape case a great deal of emphasis may be place on a woman's prior sexual history or what she wore and how she behaved. On the other hand the accused prior sexual history is not admissible because the court will generally regard it as irrelevant. This is normally the case the world over be it developed or developing country.

Definition Gender-Based Violence

Gender inequality is about the differences in perceived and real power between men and women. Nothing is more illustrative of power differences than the exercise of force. It is an indictment on humanity that 15 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, violence against women is increasing and taking a range of forms. Problem of Gender-Based Violence is universal.

What is Gender-Based Violence?Any act or practice that results in the physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering because of a person's gender may be termed gender-based Violence. Such violence primarily affects women and girls. The problem is multifaceted, in order to eradicate it, we need to understand the complex nature of this scourge. Violence against women has presented particular challenges to the media, and to society, because of the way in which it has been consigned to the 'private' sphere; and the blanket of silence surrounding it that the media has not always known how to break it in a way that respects 'survivors' and moves us towards constructive solutions.

Media have the potential to play a lead role in changing perceptions that in turn can help galvanize a move for change.

How is Gender-Based Violence different from Sexual Violence?While sex is biological, gender is a social construction. Men and women are socialized into adopting particular forms of behaviour that then come to be seen as being weak and passive. Their domain as the domestic, private world, while men are seen as strong, aggressive and part of the public world.

In many countries like the Gambia this has dire implications for women. They often do not get enough food, are denied education, do not have access to jobs and where they do they are often paid less than men, systematic and structural discrimination against womenleads to particular forms of violence, is termed Gender-Based Violence.

Gender-Based Violence causes more deaths and disability among women between the ages of 15-44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and even war.

The life cycle of gender-Based-Violence

This starts even before birth. That is from the cradle to the grave. How you may ask?

Phase: Type of violence experienced: Pre-natal: Sex selective abortion (China, India, republic of Korea)- battering during pregnancy (emotional and physical effects on the woman, effect on birth outcome.)Malnutrition, still birth, abortion, malformation etc.

-Coerced pregnancy (for example mob rape in war).

Infancy

- Infanticide

- Differential access to food and medical care for girl infants.

- Child marriage, genital mutilation, sexual abuse by family members and strangers;

- Burdening the girl-child with household chores;

- Child prostitution.

Adolescents

- Dating and courtship violence (acid throwing in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, date rape in USA, economically co-erced (African school girls dating 'sugar daddies' to obtain school fees;

- Sexual harassment in the workplace and school.

- Forced prostitution;

- Trafficking in women

Adulthood

- Abused of women by intimate male partners;

- Marital rape;

- Dowry abuse;

- Femicide;

- Sexual harassment;

- Rape;

- Forced sterilization.

- Trafficking

Old Age

- Abused of widows (Economic, Physical)

- Elder abuse (e.g. USA and South Africa)

- Dispossession

- Depriving women of their inheritance (economic abuse);

- Sexual cleansing of widows (as in Africa);

- Witchcraft;(Africa)

- Violence associated with religion, tradition, culture and custom.(Africa)Abandonment and lack of care, ill-health due to poor nutrition.Rape

Source: Based on and adopted from Heise, L et al. Violence against women: The Hidden Heath Burden. World Bank Discussion paper 1994.

Causes

Gender Inequality in unequal power relations; economic deprivation, frustration, impunity.

Forms

Physical, emotional, economic, psychological

Effects

Lack of self-esteem, self-hate, post traumatic syndrome, denial, fear, nervousness, kills one's soul', self-blame, a 'victim' instead of a 'survivor'. Increase of medical and health bill at home, the state spends more money caring for 'survivors'. An obstacle to development; death; sexually transmitted Infections, disability.

Solutions

UN, Continental, Regional, and Country campaigns like the Celebration of the 16 Days Activism against Gender-Based Violence. These campaigns are meant to eliminate Violence against Women and for communities, women, girls, men and boys as well as the authorities from ward to state level to speak out and show solidarity.

In the home

Parents to engage girl/ boy children in serious sex education to understand their bodies; to give moral/religious education to live a life of turpitude this will implant conscience into the children; Parents to be role models to mainstreaming gender at the household level; embracing the parity concept, partnership, mutual love, respect, sympathy, empathy for each other then children will copy and become responsible and productive adults and also to speak out to break the culture of silence.

In the School

Teachers to practice the three 'S' that is Service to the children, Saint by word as well as by deed to become role-models to the kids; Scientist to give them knowledge and information, to be empowered to say no to Gender-based Violence in public and private sphere, to give them life-skills tools for survival. Counseling services to be structured in the school, creation of an enabling environment conducive to learning and recreation.Sensitization on issues of Gender- Based Violence to alert them avoid danger and temptation. Teach children to speak out to break the culture of silence on violence against women and children.

In the Community

The media's role in sensitization is second to none, it has to be gender sensitive and treat the 'survivors' with respect, hide their identity but make the character visible to make society despise the act. To take it as it tasks to continuously sensitize the populace to abhor and detestGender-Based Violence. To call on the survivors to speak out and have their identities sealed for protection. Religious, Cultural leaders to speak out against the scourge.

The Judiciary

A well sensitized gender responsive judiciary can make a lot of difference, stiff sentences for offenders, perpetuators and perpetrators, both the Bench and Bar have to be gender sensitive in order to sympathized and empathized with the 'survivors'. The Judiciary to be structured to be gender friendly.

Law enforcement officers

A well trained, sensitized law enforcement officers can make a great difference to empathize and sympathize with 'survivors' when they bring their cases to the police station.To be able to mobilize funds and structures in place to be responsive to survivors.

Civil Society organizations

To form grand coalitions to create a one shop administration where the 'survivor can be attended to satisfactorily.Networking with each other to ensure 'survivors' cases are monitored and documented for action.To be able to mobilize resources and put in place responsive structures.To train women and children to speak out and break the culture of silence on violence against women and children.

The State

To be proactive with De Jure to combat De Facto situation, stiff laws against rape do exist in pieces, the state should promulgate them into a single piece of legislation with stiff sanctions against perpetuators, and perpetrators.For example the sexual violence, domestic acts as well as a piece of legislation against FGM/C.Also to provide strong support system in a one stop structure where the police, home, school, medical services can support 'survivors ' with efficiency and efficacy.

Support Mechanisms as a way forward

Home: The statethroughSocial Welfarewho should have the adequate resourcesto support families of 'survivors'.Also to engage in counseling, mobilize resources from business and civil society to support 'survivor' families. Parents to engage their children constructively in sex education. Empower children and also parents with knowledge and information to speak out against the culture of silent which seals violence against women and children.

School

Through the various type of clubs, FAWE, Peace Clubs, Young Writers Association, Gender Clubs to empower their members and other school children on knowledge, attitudes, and life skills to fight and eliminate Gender-Based Violence.Also being empowered to speak out against violence against women and children.Teachers and heads of school to be alert to their responsibilities to protect our children, children to be taught to speak out against violence against women/girls. Boys to be mobilize and organize to be part of the crusade. To build child friendly structures to support f survivors and counseling to protect other children and to be able to mobilize resources and to network with other institutions.

The society

To be proactive all hands on deck, the religious leaders to sensitize at pulpits in mosques and churches and in their congregation, media in all its forms to continue the sensitization and enlightenment on the issues; the traditional leaders to build structures in their communities to report, expose both state and non-state actors if they are offenders. To mobilize resources to help 'survivors' families.

What Exists

Organizations where 'survivors' can report to:Women rights organizations and Government institutions such as Social Welfare, Major Police Stations, Child Protection, Women's Bureau, GAMCOTRAP, FLAG, APGWA, WODD, BAFROW,FAWEGAM, ACDHRS, FAMILY PLANNING, GAFNA, TANGO, to name but a few.

Survivors and their parents and wards are advised not to wash away evidence if not genuine cases can be lost and perpetrators and perpetuators can go scot-free.

Pictures captured during the sessions at the GAFNA Refugee 2 days training Workshop for 40 participants.

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