2015 African Union Heads of State Assembly, Addis Ababa Ethiopia (30th to 31st January) on Theme of “Year of Women’s Empowerment & Development in Africa

Editorial, Summary Findings & Recommendations From New 2015 Africa Scorecard & Factsheet on Violence Against Women & Girls

  • 20 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action;
  • 15 years of Millennium Development Goals;
  • 10 years after the entering into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – on the Rights of Women in Africa and;
  • 5 years into the AU African Women’s Decade 2010-2020:

Epidemic levels of violence against girls and women – the most stark, blatant, brutal, unambiguous and dis-empowering manifestation of gender inequality – has not been eradicated – but rather institutionalised, and profoundly entrenched across Africa.

From the countries for which data is available well over a quarter – between 25% and 75% of both BOYS AND MEN (15 to 49 years old) in 25 out of 54 African countries believe that it is justifiable for men to beat their wives for the following reasons :

(1) Burning the Food;

(2)’Argues’ With Him;

(3) Goes Out Without Telling Him;

(4) Neglects the Children; Or

(5) Refuses Sexual Relations 

(See full scorecard)

The joint top ten African countries (13 in all) with the highest percentage of MALES 15 to 49 years of age justifying gender based violence are: Central African Republic 75%; Guinea 66%; Congo 62%; Equatorial Guinea 52%; Zambia 49%; Lesotho 48%; Madagascar 46%; Ethiopia 45%; Eritrea 45%; Burundi 44%; Kenya 44%; Uganda 44%; and Cote d’Ivore 42%.

Significantly in 4 of these countries over 50% of MALES 15  to 49 years of age justify gender-based violence.

In a deeply worrying sign for the future – current data underlines that violence against women and girls -is now as deeply ingrained amongst African ADOLESCENT BOYS, as it is in adult men.

When the data is restricted to ADOLESCENT BOYS (15 to 19 years old) – the number of countries double to 8 – i.e. African countries where over half of ADOLESCENT BOYS 50% or more justify gender based violence: Central African Republic 87%; Burundi 56%; Zambia 55%; Kenya 54%; Lesotho 54%; Uganda 52%; Cote d’Ivore 51%; and Ethiopia 51%.

Even more disturbingly for gender equality, women’s health, human security and developmenthigher percentages of African girls and women have been negatively socialised and indoctrinated to accept and justify violence against themselves as normal and acceptable.

From the countries for which data is available over a quarter – between 25% and 92% of GIRLS AND WOMEN 15 to 49 years old – in an astonishing 42 African countries – i.e. 17 more countries than boys and men of the same age category – now believe that it is justifiable for men to beat their wives for the reasons outlined above.

The institutionalised indoctrination and negative socialisation of millions of African girls and women to accept violence against themselves as normal – significantly driven by wide spread – state sanctioned or state tolerated – abuse and exploitation of minors – through underage and forced ‘marriages’ amongst other reasons – represents great danger to women’s citizenship, constitutional and human rights, and also to Africa’s wider and long term sustainable development.

In comparison to the fewer number of 8 countries in the same category for BOYS AND MEN aged 15 to 49 years –  there are 25 African countries where over half of GIRLS AND WOMEN – 15 to 49 years old (50% or more) have been brutally socialised to justify gender based violence

– i.e 17 more countries than with boys and men of the same age group:  Guinea 92%; Mali 87%; Central African Republic 80%; South Sudan 79%; D.R. Congo 76%; Somalia 76%; Gambia 75%; Congo 73%; Burundi 73%; Sierra Leone 73%; Algeria 68%; Ethiopia 68%; Morocco 64%; Chad 62%; Zambia 62%; Niger 60%; Senegal 60%; Liberia 59%; Uganda 58%; Rwanda 56%; Tanzania 54%; Kenya 53%; Equatorial Guinea 53%; Eritrea 51%; and Gabon 50%.

Guinea at 92% even manages to surpass Afghanistan at 90% – as a country where almost all girls and women 15 to 49 years accept Gender Based Violence as normal.

With ADOLESCENT GIRLS 15 to 19 years old – the data is even more chilling.

From the countries for which data is available well over a quarter – between 25% and 83% of ADOLESCENT FEMALES 15 to 19 years old – in 41 African countries – believe that it is justifiable for men to beat their wives for the reasons outlined above.

More significantly – in more than half of Africa’s 54 countries – 28 countries in total –  over half of ADOLESCENT GIRLS (50% or more) have been brutalised, and negatively socialised to justify gender based violence for the reasons outlined above: Mali 83%; Central African Republic 79%; Guinea 79%; Congo 76%; Somalia 75%; Burundi 74%; Gambia 74%; D.R. Congo 72%; South Sudan 72%; Eritrea 70%; Niger 68%; Algeria 66%; Ethiopia 64%; Morocco 64%; Sierra Leone 63%; Uganda 62%; Senegal 61%; Zambia 61%; Chad 59%; Gabon 58%; Kenya 57%; Rwanda 56%; Ghana 53%; Sudan 52%; Tanzania 52%; Cote d’Ivoire 51%; Cameroon 50%; and Egypt 50%.

In all 45 countries for which data is available in this category, the lowest percentage of ADOLESCENT GIRLS that now justify gender based violence is 16% (in Malawi).

The failure of majority of African governments to uphold citizenship rights, human security and human development of girls and women – leaving them exposed to epidemic levels of institutionalized gender based violence is undermining African and global development goals for Girl Child Education; HIV, Reproductive, Sexual, Maternal – and Child – Health, Cervical Cancer, and Mental Health of Women amongst other health issues – and undermining Women’s Economic Empowerment, Political Representation, and overall Poverty Reduction.

Painfully this is not a sudden problem – UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, and the World Health Organisation have at different times drawn attention to violence against girls and women globally, and in Africa.

But the time for diplomatic speak is past. We cannot wait until 99% of boys and men, girls and women – in 99% of African countries justify or accept gender-based violence as normal – before we declare an African emergency.

What we have on our hands is a problem far far greater than gender based violence in conflict.

Indeed sexual violence against girls and women in conflict as witnessed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the abduction of nearly 300 Chibok girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria (which gleefully announced their sale into ‘marriage’) – are manifestation’s of the epidemic normalisation of gender based violence in Africa.

There is a hollow ring to celebration of unimplemented conference declarations while millions of girls and women are routinely abused, exploited, beaten, raped and subjected to servitude in homes and communities across Africa – without recourse to justice, leading to impunity for perpetrators.

4 Key Recommendations from Scorecard & Factsheet

The new Africa 2063 Agenda, Global Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and Beijing+ 20 Review must have as an overall goal (policy enabled and budgeted for) multisectoral national level milestone targets on:

1.   Zero Tolerance – for Male Justification of / Institutional Toleration of Gender Based Violence & Discrimination:

– Ensuring for all serving law enforcement officers, training / education and reform on gender equality and women’s rights – 

Institutionalising same in curriculum of all law enforcement training institutions; establishment of specialised gender based violence units with minimum 50% female composition; and overall recruitment of more women officers and leadership reflective of population balance;

– Urgent gender equality, and women’s human rights education for armed forces – to eradicate official military gender based violence in conflict, especially sexual violence;

– Ensuring comprehensive measurable constitutional, citizenship, legislative and justice sector review – aimed at eliminating all enshrined forms of institutionalised discrimination against girls and women;

– Reduction and elimination of negative stereotypes and portrayal of girls and women in the media – especially stereotypes that justify gender based violence.

2.  Supportive Reduction to Zero – of Percentage of Girls & Women Negatively Socialised & Indoctrinated to Justify/Accept Gender Based Violence as Normal:

– Improved investment in girl child / women’s formal education;

– Ensuring equitable policy and investment for girls and women’s health;

– Improved government and private sector investment in women’s economic empowerment;

– Ensuring gender equitable political representation at all levels of governance (including where necessary transitional 50/50 quota systems to ensure a more level playing field);

– Establishment of specific national and community based emergency reporting phone numbers, safe houses, and law enforcement protection, aimed at protecting girl children from abuse, exploitation and negative cultural practices – especially forced and underage ‘marriages’.

Cross Cutting (Male & Female) Gender Equality Awareness and Education  – for boys and men; girl and women – through schools, national and local governments, workplace and community; private sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs on same; and mass media.

3.  Establishment / Strengthening of Independent National Gender Equality & Women’s Rights Commissions – for Domestication of Protocol to the African Charter – On the Rights of Women In Africa  – in force since 2005 – and currently signed and ratified by 36 African countries; and related conventions.

– Inclusive of full participation and representation of independent women’s organisations – and with enabling legislation and budgets to monitor, investigate, educate, promote, protect, report and rectify policy and practice undermining gender equality in government, private sector, and the community.

4. Establishment of a Special Independent Commission for Promotion of Girls & Women’s Human Security & Development; Gender Equality & Women’s Rights.

– Composed of eminent persons, experts and campaigners – with power to issue independent annual or bi-annual reports to be presented to AU Summits; and with actionable recommendations implemented through Ministers of Justice, Gender, Youth, Education, Health, and Economic Development; and Parliaments.

Editorial Ends

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