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The incident was not unusual in Africa.

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In December a Kenyan police officer, Felix Nthiwa Munayo, got home late and demanded meat for his dinner. There was none in the house. Enraged, he beat his wife, Betty Kavata. Paralyzed and brain-damaged, Ms. Kavata died five months later, on her 28th birthday. But unlike many such cases, Ms. The Kenyan media covered the story extensively.

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Images of the fatally injured woman and news of her death generated nationwide debate on domestic violence. There followed five years of protests, demonstrations and lobbying by non-governmental organizations NGOsas well as by outraged men and parliamentarians.

Finally, the government passed a family protection bill criminalizing wife-beating and other forms of domestic violence. In South Africa, reports Amnesty International, about one woman is killed by her husband or boyfriend every six hours. In Zimbabwe, six out of 10 murder cases tried in the Harare High Court in were related to domestic violence. Domestic violence is a global problem. In Europe, estimates the WHO, violence in the home is the primary cause of injury and death for women aged 16—44, more lethal than road accidents or cancer.

It is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. Violence against women goes beyond beatings. It includes forced marriage, dowry-related violence, marital rape, sexual harassment, intimidation at work and in educational institutions, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization, trafficking and forced prostitution.

Such practices cause trauma, injuries and death. Female genital cutting, for example, is a common cultural practice in parts of Africa. The organization estimates that million girls have undergone the procedure globally and 2 million are at risk each year, despite international agreements banning the practice.

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Sexual violence is another problem. A local organization in Zaria, Nigeria, found that 16 per cent of patients with sexually transmitted diseases STDs were girls under the age of five, a of sexual assault. Abusers of women tend to view violence as the only way to solve family conflicts, according to a study on violence against women by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health near Baltimore, US.

Perpetrators typically have a history of violent behaviour, grew up in violent homes and often abuse alcohol and drugs. The story of Janet Akinyi in Kenya is a case in point. In she filed for divorce and custody of her children after her husband attempted to kill her with a knife.

She had endured violent beatings throughout her 10 years of marriage. Akinyi told Africa Renewal. He would say it is the only way to teach me to respect him. However, violence against women, the Johns Hopkins study points out, goes beyond the brutalization of women by individuals. Such cultural norms put women in subservient positions in relation to their husbands and other males. Focusing specifically on Africa, Ms. This is true to such an extent, Ms.

Hudson added, that women can be perceived as objects or property, a view reflected especially clearly in practices such as wife inheritance and dowry payments. And if a woman sought separation or divorce, the dowry had to be reimbursed. He noted in that denying women the right to inherit and own property leaves them economically vulnerable and dependent. Since Mr. The WHO found that women with at least a secondary education were more able to negotiate greater autonomy and control of resources within marriage, have a wider range of choices in partners and are more able to choose whether and when to marry.

Such capacities have often been associated with lower levels of violence in the home. Women are not just victims. They have been working actively for change. The court proceeding, attended by thousands, yielded a year prison sentence for the perpetrator, the first conviction for such a crime in Senegal.

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Women have also been active internationally to gain better mechanisms to protect women. This has included successfully pushing for adoption of international treaties and instruments, such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women see box. That convention commits governments to change discriminatory practices and laws, including those that permit early marriage, bar women from inheriting property or relegate them to a secondary status.

The committee asked governments to identify and end customs and practices that perpetuate violence against women. It urged them to conduct public education, create safe havens, institute counseling and rehabilitation programmes for victims, sensitize law-enforcement officials and draft relevant laws to protect women against all kinds of violence. Many countries, reported the agency, do not collect information on violence against women, so there is little data available to assess whether measures are having any impact. Worse, few countries have enacted laws to prevent abuse.

As of that year, only 17 sub-Saharan countries had specific laws against domestic violence. Ten did not have any laws on rape or sexual assault and 30 had no laws prohibiting female genital mutilation.

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As ofout of countries that are party to the convention, only 89 have laws specifically outlawing domestic violence. Ninety governments have laws against sexual harassment. In Africa, only South Africa has enacted all relevant laws to punish violence against women.

Ndugu said. The sexual violence bill in Kenya passed only after certain sections, such as one that would have outlawed marital rape, were removed. In Uganda, similar laws have languished for more than a decade. Participants from Tanzania and Zimbabwe said they had faced similar resistance.

There have been some exceptions. In Rwanda, UNIFEM worked with the government to create a law requiring all parties to field equal s of male and female candidates in parliamentary elections. This advance was especially important for female survivors of the genocide in Rwanda.

Without the new law, they would have been beholden to male relatives and vulnerable to abuse. But they can now take control of their family resources and provide for themselves. In South Africa, men and women legislators together helped pass the Domestic Violence Act inat a time when the country had the lowest of female ministers and parliamentarians since the end of apartheid in Legislation introducing minimum sentences for rape and tightening bail requirements for those accused of rape was enacted inand guidelines for the handling of sexual offences were passed the following year.

Putting new laws on the books is not enough. Law enforcement and court mechanisms also have to be made friendly and accessible to women, says Ms. Moreover, Ms. According to Ms. In Rwanda, gender desks have been established at police stations, staffed mostly by trained women who help victims of sexual and other violence. They investigate cases and ensure that evidence is available for court proceedings. As a result, in the Rwandan police referred 1, rape cases to prosecutors, resulting in convictions. Inthe government of Burkina Faso passed a law prohibiting female genital cutting.

To make the law effective, the authorities launched a public education campaign on the issue, added the topic to the school curriculum and opened a telephone help line for girls at risk.

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Public support for female genital cutting has fallen. However, even good laws can fail if the legal process is too expensive. When Ms. Some women have had cases pending before the court for five years because they are relying on free public defenders who handle too many cases. I now realize why so many women never leave their husbands. How can they possibly afford this process?

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We have created free legal clinics and trained local lawyers to address that. To Ms. Kaba, the biggest challenge is changing the social attitudes and beliefs that confine women to an inferior status. Educating both men and women is critical. The WHO study found that 80 per cent of women surveyed in rural Egypt believed that beatings were justified if the woman refused to have sex with her partner.

In Ghana, more women 50 per cent than men 43 per cent believed that a man was justified in beating his wife if she used a family planning method without his consent. In Uganda, the Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention works with 73 community volunteers, balanced roughly equally between women and men. They use street theatre to generate support for local laws on domestic violence. Male activists also engage men, to emphasize that nonviolence benefits the whole family, not only women.

In Guinea, public education efforts bring together local NGOs and imams to explain that Islam does not condone the abuse of women.

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By engaging both men and women, such civil society groups send a message that domestic violence is not an issue just for women, but a problem affecting the whole community. Such change, said Ms. Cagar, can only be achieved through dialogue and debate, advocacy, community participation and the concerted mobilization of civil society.

The real shame, Ms. Similarly, a UN General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women called on governments to condemn such violence and to refrain from using customs, traditions or religious beliefs to avoid their obligations to end it. These agreements serve as the framework for the mandate of the UN special rapporteur on violence against women. The protocol came into force in November after ratification by 15 states.

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