SHE SHE SHE: Bringing Gender-based Violence to light

Thursday, January 22, 2015
It is true that as a nation we have been talking about gender-based violence, and how to bring the perpetrators to book; but how many victims come forward to seek redress, especially the one that occurs in families.

Gender-based violence is too dangerous and one should not confine it within the four walls of the family. It is not a private family matter, but it is of public interest.

What is Gender-based Violence?

According to the leaflet provided by the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG), violence against women means any act perpetrated against women which cause them physical, mental and emotional, sexual, psychological and economic harm, including the threat to take such acts.

According to the 1993 United Nations declaration on the elimination of violence against women, GBV means any act that results in or likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women; including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or private life is violence against women.

It encompasses, but is not limited, to physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital cutting and other traditional practices harmful to women.

Non spousal violence and violence related to exploitation; physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere; trafficking in women, forced prostitution, and physical and sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condone by the state, wherever it occurs.

The committee on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, in its general recommendation No. 19, defines it as violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or violence that affects women inappropriately.

It includes inflicting physical, mental or sexual harm, and suffering threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivation of liberty.

Forms of Gender-based Violence

Sexual abuse, assault, spousal battering, rape, traditional practices harmful to women such as FGM, early and forced marriage, sexual harassment and intimidation at work and in school, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, violence perpetrated or conducted by the state such as rape in war, indecent assault, defilement etc.

Causes of GBV

A young person is more vulnerable and likely to be a victim of GBV. People with disabilities are seen to be weak and helpless. People living with HIV face a lot of violence, because of their disease.

An uneducated person will not be expected to know what GBV is. An individual abused as a child may believe that is the only way to reach a solution to a problem, thus grows up to behave that way.

In the community, society placed male children at the top of the hierarchy. Family matters are usually viewed as private, thus no interference from other members of the society, if an individual is undergoing GBV; also accepting domestic violence as a form of punishment to women and children.

Poor family relationships, incest and employment status, unemployed partners are most likely to be victims of GBV as they are seen as dependants.

The state can also be a cause of GBV in times of war. GBV is likely to happen, especially to women, as there is no security to protect them, and they are seen as vulnerable; inadequate laws and policies for the prevention and punishment of violence, and limited awareness and sensitivity on the part of law enforcement officials, courts and social service providers, are other factors.

Impact of GBV

GBV has devastating social and medical consequences on the person who experiences it, such as a feeling of guilt, stigma and blame.

It undermines the person’s dignity, autonomy and security. It also affects those who witness it, especially children. It also affects the economic and social development of a society.

GBV poses a danger to a woman’s reproductive health, and can scar a survivor psychologically, cognitively and interpersonally.

A woman who experiences gender-based violence and lives in an abusive relationship with her partner, may be discriminated and stigmatized by her family and community or be exposed to STIs.

Legal instruments

Women’s Act 2010

The Women’s Act 2010 contains a comprehensive provision that protects girls and women from all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination.

The Act also recognizes that violence is perpetrated against women and girls in both the public and private spheres, and prohibits such wherever it occurs, whether by husband or boyfriend.

Section 6 of the Act provides that every woman shall be protected against any form of physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm, suffering or violence whether occurring in public or private life. Any form of violence against women is hereby prohibited.

All government departments, agencies, organs, public or private institutions shall take appropriate measures to promote and protect women’s rights and their legal status from any form of abuse or violence by any person, enterprise, organization or institution.

This section of the Act to all intents and purposes prohibits domestic violence, or wife battering, and intimate partner violence that takes place in private, whether by husband or boyfriend.

Sexual Offences Act

The Act addresses the most common sexual offences, and provides for punitive measures.

The Act provides protection against sexual crimes against all persons, and especially sexual offences being committed against vulnerable groups including women and children, and people who are mentally and physically disabled.

The Act defines rape, dilates on the evidence admissible in criminal proceedings of such offences, and provides penalties.

Domestic Violence Act

The Act is for combating domestic violence, and provides protection for the victims of domestic violence, particulary women and children and for other related matters.

The Act defines what constitutes domestic violence, and what a domestic relationship is.

Where to get redress as a victim or complainant

Police station, health centers, department of Social Welfare, Attorney General’s Chambers and Ministry of Justice, National Agency for Legal Aid (NALA), Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG), and a human rights association.

Source: Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG).

She-she-she: “Reporting cases of gender violence as a victim will not break your family, community, society or the nation apart, but it will help bring the perpetrators to justice.” 

Author: Halimatou Ceesay