West Africa: Call for Governments to Criminalize Domestic Violence
Thursday, May 24, 2012 11:15 AM

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) describes in its report, Let Me Not Die Before My Time: Domestic Violence in West Africa, the perverse problem of domestic violence in the Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone. IRC President George Rupp said, “It is time to recognise domestic violence for what it is – a public health crisis that requires urgent attention and resources in humanitarian settings.”

The IRC urged Liberia and Ivory Coast to pass laws protecting women from domestic violence and to commit to providing resources for implementation. The IRC also said that despite Sierra Leone’s existing domestic violence legislation, much more must be done to ensure enforcement and awareness.

Women are afforded little, if any, protection under the law in these countries. The report found abuse in the form of beatings, marital rape, and burnings but also mentioned less visible forms of abuse such as the denial of food, medical care, and money. Forced isolation, humiliation and restricted access to family and friends were also included. Since police are not trained to investigate domestic violence cases, women are at a greater risk of abuse if a complaint is brought.

Domestic violence persists in post-conflict countries due to the perception that domestic violence is a private matter and a compelling issue only during times of peace. Domestic violence often increases during and immediately after conflict. The IRC report stressed that domestic violence prevents the community as a whole from reaping the benefits of peace and prevents countries from reaching their full potential as they redevelop after years of war.

Compiled from: Batha, Emma, Liberia, Ivory Coast Must Limit Domestic Abuse - ReportTrustLaw (22 May 2012).