Ethiopia: Death of Gang Rape Victim Brings Attention to Violence Against Women
Monday, December 8, 2014 11:00 AM

The death of a young Ethiopian girl kidnapped and brutally gang raped over five days in Addis Ababa has focused national and international attention on the serious problem of violence against women in Ethiopia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ethiopia has a very high rate of physical and sexual violence. The WHO found that over 70% of Ethiopian women with at least one current or former partner reported experiencing violence in their lifetime. Nearly 40% reported experiencing “severe” violence such as choking, burning, or being “beaten up.” Few of these women said they sought help after a violent incident and 37% characterized the violence as “normal,” indicating a profound lack of support and protection for women who experience violence in Ethiopia.


Advocates say that entrenched patriarchy and restrictive laws on funding for civil society organizations have made it extremely difficult to change traditional attitudes about gender or address violence against women in Ethiopia. For example, a 2009 law, the “Charities and Societies Proclamation,” has been used to block foreign funding for women’s human rights groups and those that provide shelter and services for women survivors of violence. As one former lecturer at Addis Ababa University stated after the girl's death, “[t’here are no community-based initiatives that can deal with the culturally sanctioned harassment, abuse and discrimination against women.” She noted that many Ethiopian families choose to settle matters of violence against women in a traditional way, and that reportedly, the men who gang raped the Ethiopian girl attempted to reconcile with her parents. 

As reported in Vice News, the Network of Ethiopian Women's Organizations is now petitioning the Ethiopian government “to create a special task force to monitor sexual assault cases within the country, establish a gender-based violence fund, and reformat the Charities and Societies Proclamation to allow more funding to women's organizations helping victims of sexual assault.”


Five men allegedly involved in the rape and death of the Ethiopian girl have been arrested, but their trial will not be open to public.

Compiled from: Magdaleno, Johnny, Teen's Death After Kidnapping and Gang Rape Causes Scrutiny of Ethiopia’s Anti-NGO Law, Vice News (December 7, 2014); Geme, Tigist, Teen’s Gang Rape in Addis Ababa Sounds Alarm, Aljazeera America (November 29, 2014).