18 February 2016

Chad: Outcry Over Gang-Rape in Chad

Several people have been implicated in the gang rape of a high school student in Chad, according to the young woman's father. Activists in Chad say the outcry about this case is shedding light on an endemic problem of violence against women in the country.

Just over ten days ago, 6-year-old Zouhoura was lured away from her home in the capital N'Djamena.

She was raped by a group of young men, some of whom she went to school with. The Chadian press reported that several of the alleged perpetrators were the sons of important Chadian figures-including two generals.

"They told me to keep quiet", Zouhoura expalined in an interview with RFI's sister television station, France 24. "But I told my parents. I had to, in spite of myself".

The young woman's parents reported it to the police, but they say authorities didn't do anything about it.

However, the perpetrators had filmed the attack and a video started circulating in closed groups on WhatsApp. Eventually, it was shared by a Chadian activist, Fils de Maïna, in a bid to denounce violence against women. The outcry was massive. Protests in support of Zouhoura broke out across the country, many taking place in front of high schools. Some took place in neighbouring Niger.

Thrown into the spotlight, Zouhoura and her family chose to speak up. Her father, Mahamat Yosko, happens to be an opposition politician and a presidential candidate for the elections to be held on April 10.

He accused the authorities of trying to cover up the crime. Zouhoura started giving interviews. She spoke out against her rapists on international television and published a video thanking those who protested on her behalf.

The national outcry has led to an investigation, Yosko told RFI.

"There are now 17 people implicated in the crime against my daughter, including four girls who were arrested for the accessory roles they may have played", Yosko said.

"The justice system is doing its job. Other parents have also reported crimes committed by the same group of boys.

"They do it and then to humiliate the girl, they say, 'if you don't come next time, we'll publish the video'. But my daughter said, publish it. I'm already humiliated so it won't affect me. Many other fathers have told me that their daughters were also raped."

Balbal Oyamta works at the Chadian Human Rights League.

He says that violence against women is rampant. In the past three years, his organisation has started to see more and more cases where the rape is filmed. The video is then used to blackmail the victim.

But he also points his finger at the justice system.

"The real problem in our country is the failure to apply our laws", he told RFI. "There are laws and there are also international treaties signed by Chad that should protect women.

"So this case is making us think about the culture of impunity and question the independence of the judiciary. It's also making us think about the involvement of the authorities when these cases are settled outside of the justice system".

He said that money very often changes hands in these situations.

"In all the similar filmed rape cases that we've looked at, people have always found a way to negotiate and to pay money for it to be forgotten", he said. "So that tells certain people that, well, if you have money, you can do whatever you want".

Oyamta hopes that this scandal will lead to judicial reforms as well as shining a light on violence against women.

The OECD has ranked Chad 97th out of 102 countries in terms of women's rights.

More than fifty percent of women have experienced sexual violence -- while forced marriage and female genital mutilation continue to be widespread.

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