No woman or girl should be able to name someone they know that has experienced some form of sexual abuse or violence, yet most of us can name many. Sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) has been detrimentally affecting women and girls both physically and mentally since anyone can remember. As an important asset to societies in both rural and urban communities, women and girls should be given the full potential to succeed. With sexual violence at such high rates within Sub-Saharan Africa, this potential is threatened. The consequences of SGBV create a lifetime of even more difficulty and constraint for women and girls than they already currently experience due to existing patriarchal structures. This cannot continue!
Nevertheless, change is being implemented. Feminist leaders are doing all they can to transform the statistics of SGBV through advocacy, education, policy change, and much more. In that regard, Akina Mama wa Afrika on behalf of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Regional Civil Society Forum with support from Amplify Change commissioned a study to review implementation of the Kampala Declaration, UN Resolution 1325 and the Goma Declaration on eradicating SGBV. Three African countries are specifically being targeted in order to increase their eradication efforts of SGBV: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. These states have all implemented different aspects and recommendations from recent policy frameworks in alignment with these ongoing feminist efforts. The Kampala Declaration on SGBV, the Goma Declaration on eradicating Sexual Violence and Ending Impunity in the Great Lakes, and UN Resolution 1325 aim at advancing the goals of equality, development, and peace for women and girls in Central and Eastern Africa. Although the three countries have all put in a significant amount of effort in implementing these policies, there are still major improvements that need to be made. All three states have numerous gaps in the implementation and enforcement of their policies on the prevention and response to sexual gender-based violence.
In the instance of CAR, within their Penal Code listings of crimes against humanity, there is only a singular definition of rape therefore leaving out various other forms of sexual gender-based violence such as female genital mutilation. Additionally, this also allows for rape to have its own subjective definition and prevents other forms of sexual assault and violence from being punished. Another issue that is present in CAR is the government's continuation in developing and updating policy rather than funding and enforcing the ones that are already in place. This allows for limited implementation of the primary policies that are necessary in the fight and prevention against SGBV. That being said, the required resources to have these policies and programs running effectively are not present therefore making them difficult to enact in the first place.
In DRC, similar efforts have been made to eliminate sexual and gender based violence, however, there are still gaps in the implementation process. An example of this is displayed in how SGBV survivors in the country are only able to receive recovery services and treatment if they reside in urban areas. In other areas, these services are inaccessible, insufficient, or absent. Because of this, rural communities are left abandoned and often instead turn to other solutions in regards to SGBV, including marriage to the perpetrator.
Uganda has also made significant steps towards eliminating SGBV, however, much progress is still needing to be made in many areas. An example of this is the absence of a definition for domestic violence in the Penal Code as well as the Domestic Violence Act. These two laws also do not criminalize marital rape which allows for domestic abuse and sexual violence to continue to legally occur. Without the criminalization of marital rape, women are forced to maintain abusive relationships with their spouses and are less likely to seek help regarding the issue. Another gap that is well-known in Uganda is the corruption within the police force. It is cited that officers mismanage crime scenes including members of the police force asking for money in exchange for distorting evidence.
As evidenced, CAR, DRC, and Uganda still have significant efforts to make in order to completely eradicate sexual gender-based violence within each country. However, there are steps that can be taken in order to ensure that the process is done in the most efficient and sustainable way. States must begin this by strengthening their awareness raising efforts on SGBV in order to eradicate negative cultural attitude and practices that stop SGBV survivors from seeking helpful services. Additionally, each country can also aim efforts towards building the capacity of women to engage in decision making processes at all levels. Finally, the prioritization of implementing existing laws and principle actions needs to be done over the constant creation of news laws in order to effective change to occur.
All this said, it may seem that Africa as a continent is still not progressing towards a place in which women will be free from their oppressions. However, there is change still being enacted by numerous stakeholders with regards to SGBV. Governments are doing their best to enforce and implement laws to protect women and girls and pan-African NGO’s are lobbying them to make sure this happens as efficiently as possible. Feminist organizations are becoming the backbone of this movement and supporting them is what fuels this change.
"I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I’m changing the things I cannot accept"
AMwA) on behalf of the ICGLR Regional Civil Society Forum, commissioned a study to review implementation of the Kampala Declaration, UN Resolution 1325 and the Goma Declaration on eradicating SGBV.