In Africa: Efforts for Stronger Protection Against Gender-Based Violence
Thursday, April 23, 2009 12:29 PM

The Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD) has launched a Regional Gender Programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda to collectively address gender violence in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Experts from these countries met in Nairobi from April 7-8, 2009, to discuss the theme, "The hidden war crimes: challenging the impunity for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the Great Lakes Region." Participation of all society sectors to end the problem was stressed.

Participants described some systemic failures in their countries, such as:

- Although some nations have legislation against SGBV, these laws are not working due to a severe lack of operational funds, such as in DRC where rape cases are widespread.

- Rape survivors in DRC receive little help from the health system due to lack of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). While PEP is available in Northern Uganda's Pader district, there is a shortage of qualified medical personnel who can administer the therapy. This shortage also leads to lack of supporting evidence in the courts. Experts are currently working on documenting these failures for use in advocacy directed towards policy makers for reform in key areas of SGBV.

In Nairobi, district heads have described efforts to fight sexual violence as a waste of resources. Similarly, in northern Uganda, district commissioners have abandoned the problem of SGBV, claiming that it does not exist, and requesting that donor funds for psychosocial support for SGBV survivors go instead to other sectors. In the northern Ugandan district of Pader, government representatives have said that the money should be used to build roads and schools destroyed during the 20-year old conflict between government forces and Lord's Resistance Army rebels, despite the fact that women and girls have been intensively raped and tortured during that war, and that SGBV continues to happen even after its end.   

A program called “Agents of Change” is focusing on transforming cultural attitudes in Burundi.  Many rape cases occurred in the country during the 12-year civil war between the Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority. The program believes that efforts should focus on changing attitudes in the households, especially for children. The program is currently active in five provinces, training couples to spread anti-SGBV messages to at least 10 people of their households, who will in turn act as "agents of change" for 10 others in the extended family. 

Through comprehensive research in these countries, ACORD targets strengthening protection for women and girls at the local, national and regional levels, through diminishing the impunity of gender-based crimes.

Compiled from: Mulama, Joyce, AFRICA: Developing Stronger Protection Against Gender-Based Violence, April 18th,2009,  Inter Press Service – IPS.