The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that begins on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10th, Human Rights Day. This is an opportunity for us all to reaffirm our commitment to ending gender-based violence and hold one another accountable.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a grave human rights violation as well as a severe health and safety concern. Women and girls mostly likely to be subjected to sexual or physical violence during their lifetime. Despite constitutions and legislative safeguards enacted by African governments, gender and sexual orientation-based violence persists at alarming rates.
According to the UNFPA, the East and Southern Africa region has high rates of sexual violence against women and girls. In seven countries, around 20 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 years reported they had experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner. Sexual violence against early adolescents aged 15 years and below is highest in the conflict and post-conflict countries of the DRC, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Given Africa’s scourge of gender-based violence, it is critical that civil society organisations, government institutions, and private entities work together to Orange the world: End violence against women now. In a continent where women’s and girls’ rights are constantly violated, it is crucial that we demand justice and engage our leaders in implementing laws that protect women and prohibit practices that oppress women and girls.
For years, men have reaped the benefits of patriarchy and its senseless foundation. It is therefore vital to engage men and boys to end gender-based violence (GBV). Female Genital Mutation (FGM) and child marriage are common practices on our continent. Despite the fact that these practices are illegal in other parts of Africa, they are still rampant in our society.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) and cutting remains common in some East African countries. The prevalence of FGM is as high as 97.9% in Somalia and 93.1% in Djibouti. Even Eritrea, Sudan, and Ethiopia report very high prevalence of FGM.
Many countries in East and Southern Africa have very high GBV rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, with preliminary reports from some countries indicating that the incidence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the data, more than 40% of women in Burundi, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe reported violence by an intimate partner prior to the pandemic, while nearly 30% of respondents in Uganda, Zambia, Burundi, and Kenya reported violence by current or previous partners in the previous 12 months.
In South Africa we have high levels of GBVF. The recent crime statistics released by the minister of police indicate that sexual related violence including rape, GBVF are very high. This horrifying report is released just on the eve of the 16 Days of Activism indicating the massive challenge that still confronts our society. We have the National Strategic Plan on GBVF signed up by the President almost two years ago now. It has laid an important foundation for a comprehensive response to the challenge of GBVF. The implementation is a bit slow, but the foundations have been laid and we trust that the implementation will pick soon to turn the tide against GBVF.
The UN Orange campaign is very important in keeping the focus on this matter globally. As Sonke and MenEngage Africa we support this initiative cognizant of its importance in mobilising all of us in society to be engaged in all efforts to turn the tide against GBVF. The call for 365 days of no violence against women and children is an important call that must be enhanced in all our interventions.
The COVID-19 pandemic and Gender based violence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gender-based violence against women and girls in Africa. It has shed a light on existing gender inequalities and has also seen a sharp increase in violence against women and girls especially domestic abuse.
Women, particularly those who lost their jobs and earnings as a result of the pandemic and became completely dependent on their husbands or partners, and girls who were confined in their homes with no access to protection and treatment services faced increased levels of sexual and physical domestic violence.
HIV/AIDS is another factor that continues to disproportionately affect women and girls. While the pandemic was at its peak, people living with HIV and AIDS, WHO’s report confirms that HIV infection is a significant independent risk factor for both severe and critical COVID-19 presentation at hospital admission and in-hospital mortality. This meant that women were at a high risk of dying. Women and girls had difficulty accessing SRHR and HIV services during the hard lockdowns, putting us back in our fight against HIV/AIDS.
MenEngage Africa will continue advocating for and promoting fundamental human and women’s rights, including engaging community leaders, faith leaders, traditional and government officials to challenge and address harmful practices, calling for an end to sexual and gender-based violence, working with decision-makers to advocate for better policies that affect women’s well-being, and collaborating with other organisations whose mandate addresses women’s rights.
For media enquiries, contact:
Bafana Khumalo, Co-Chairperson, Global MenEngage Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org or +27-82-578-4479
Mabel, Regional Programs co- Unit Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, Secretariat of MenEngage Africa Alliance: email@example.com or +256 752 317300
Given Sigauqwe, CSI Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, firstname.lastname@example.org or 0739882870.
Notes to editors
MenEngage Africa is part of a global alliance of organisations that engage men and boys to achieve gender equality, promote health, reduce violence and to question and address the structural barriers to achieving gender equality. The alliance consists of 22 country networks spread across East, West, Central and Southern Africa. MEA members work collectively toward advancing gender justice, human rights and social justice in key thematic areas including Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), gender-based violence (GBV) & HIV prevention, Child Rights and Positive Parenting and in promoting peace on the continent.