Friday, October 7, 2022

The scourge of sexual violence in West Africa, unveiled

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Figure 1. Built from the DHS Program on-line knowledge. Credit: STATcompiler, Fourni par l’auteur

When Zougba‘s husband fled the jihadist violence crippling Burkina Faso, she quickly discovered herself along with her younger son, daughter and different ladies on the highway in a mission to affix him. After 10km, 4 armed males surged into view from the facet of the highway. Her kids bore witness as the boys raped her, one after one other. The police arrived too late.

More than 40% of girls in West Africa are victims of violence no less than as soon as of their lifetimes, based on a 2018 report, Réseau des Femmes Elues Locales d’Afrique (REFELA). Together with Central Africa (65% of girls are victims of violence), these two areas represent the a part of the world with the best degree of violence towards ladies (REFELA 2018 report).

To higher establish the extent of such violence, significantly sexual violence, its variation by age and the primary perpetrators concerned, right here we current some indicators. The international locations lined are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Togo. Data was obtained from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), compiled with the view of figuring out the varieties of violence ladies have skilled, the age at which the violence started, its frequency in addition to its perpetrators. We incorporate victims’ testimonials from the GBV West Africa Exposed web site to place faces on what may in any other case be nameless numbers.

In search of dependable knowledge

The main problem in measuring indicators of violence towards ladies in sub-Saharan Africa, and significantly in West Africa, lies within the lack of dependable knowledge.

The causes are much like different components of the world: poor reporting services, a persistent tradition of victim-blaming and a heavy taboo surrounding sexual abuse. African international locations additionally undergo from imperfect statistical and demographic knowledge system, making what’s seen solely the tip of the iceberg.

In latest years, the DHS have tried to collect knowledge to seize the total spectrum of home violence in growing international locations. Although they typically cowl solely ladies of childbearing age (15–49), they produce outcomes which might be nationally consultant and comparable throughout international locations. However, indicators of violence towards ladies obtained from DHS usually are not exhaustive throughout international locations.

How prevalent is bodily and sexual violence in West Africa?

As proven in Figure 1, some surveys, such because the DHS, calculate indicators that distinguish between strictly bodily violence, strictly sexual violence, and violence that’s each sexual and bodily. But this final class is added to every of the earlier two once we are particularly taken with sexual violence or bodily violence.

The proportion (%) of girls who’ve skilled no less than one act of bodily or sexual violence of their life could be very excessive in West Africa. In sure international locations, this quantities to greater than twice the global average) (27%) and 6 occasions increased than the European average (10%).

We nonetheless observe variations between international locations. While it’s comparatively low in Mauritania (12.9%), Senegal (18.1%) and Burkina Faso (20.1%), it exceeds 60% in Liberia and Sierra Leone (60.6% and 62%, respectively). The figures for Liberia and Sierra Leone actually replicate a legacy of civil wars by which bodily and sexual violence towards ladies (significantly rape) was deployed as a weapon.

The the rest of statistics sees Benin at 30.5%; Togo, 32.3%; Nigeria, 33.4%; Côte d’Ivoire, 36.2%; Ghana 44.5%, Mali, 45.1%, and Gambia, 48%. If we’re to go by the numbers, acts of bodily violence outnumber ones of sexual abuse by about three to at least one.

The scourge of sexual violence in West Africa, unveiled
Built from the DHS Program on-line knowledge. Credit: STATcompiler, Fourni par l’auteur

Rates and tendencies of sexual violence

Figure 2 presents the proportions (%) of West African ladies who’ve skilled acts of sexual violence within the 12 months previous every survey. These included rape, sexual assault and every other act of a sexual nature with out consent.

The determine seems at sexual violence framed as having been solely sexual and concurrent with acts of bodily violence. On common, 10% of girls reported having skilled sexual violence of their lifetime, and 4% within the 12 months earlier than the survey.

Ghana has the best lifetime sexual violence skilled by ladies (19%) in comparison with a decrease degree in Senegal (3.4%). Benin, Togo and Mali have decrease ranges than Ghana however exceed 10% (10.1, 10.5 and 12.6, respectively). Gambia, Liberia and Nigeria all rating 9%, whereas Sierra Leone is at 7.4% and Mauritania, 6%.

The comparatively low prevalence of violence towards ladies in Senegal will be defined by the nation’s considerable progress in gender policy in recent times. For instance, it’s the area’s solely nation to have outfitted each one among its ministries with a gender unit, whereas regionally elected “agony aunt” figures, referred to as the Bajenu Gox, watch over their communities in a bid to forestall gender-based violence. It has undoubtedly benefited from an inflow of worldwide organizations devoted to selling ladies’s rights.

In phrases of tendencies, the proportion of girls who report having skilled sexual violence of their lifetime has tripled in Mali (4% in 2006 and 12.6% in 2018), doubled in Gambia (4.6% in 2013 and 9% in 2019) and shot up by 30% in Nigeria (7% in 2008 and 9.1% in 2018). In distinction, it was divided by 2.5 in Senegal (8.4% in 2017 and three.4% in 2019), by 1.4 in Sierra Leone (10.5% in 2013 and seven.4% in 2019) and virtually by 2 in Liberia (17.6% in 2007 and 9.1% in 2019).

The improve in sexual violence in some international locations within the area (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso) is linked to the safety disaster within the Sahel and its many terrorist assaults. In that regard, the story of Sadia—a 28-year-old Malian lady, who was kidnapped by an armed group, detained for 19 days and raped—is just not unusual. Nor is that of Ariette, a 17-year outdated in Burkina Faso who was compelled into marrying a 65-year-old dealer who hits and rapes her each evening.

The scourge of sexual violence in West Africa, unveiled
Built from the DHS Program on-line knowledge. Credit: STATcompiler, Fourni par l’auteur

First acts of sexual violence at very younger ages

“He was the son of my uncle’s friend whom I knew and considered my family. And yet when I was 14, he defiled me; he raped me. The pain of this rape had not finished consuming me until I found out that I was pregnant by this man.” (Lucy, Senegal)

Age is a necessary consider sexual violence in West Africa. Many, like Lucy, expertise their first acts of sexual violence after they’re very younger. Almost in all places within the area, greater than 60% of feminine victims of sexual violence report having skilled the primary acts of such violence earlier than the age of 21 (74% in Gambia, 71% in Mali and Ghana, 70% in Liberia, 67% in Nigeria, 65% in Togo, 62% in Benin and Sierra Leone, 35% in Mauritania and 12% in Senegal) (Figures 3a and 3b).

Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone have the best proportion of girls who first skilled sexual violence at a really early age (earlier than age 15) (34%, 29% and 22%, respectively). The figures are round 18% in Nigeria, 16% in Benin and 13% in Togo, Mali and Ghana, respectively. In Senegal and Mauritania, alternatively, this precocity is much less pronounced (3% and eight%, respectively).

Violence is especially dedicated by intimate companions

The overwhelming majority (greater than 80%) of sexual violence towards ladies in West Africa takes place inside {couples}. On common, practically 60% of victims named the husband or present partner because the perpetrator (80.5% in Mali, 78.7% in Senegal, 69.1% in Sierra Leone, 68% in Mauritania, 61.5% in Benin, 53% in Nigeria, 44% in Togo, 43.8% in Liberia and 37.8% in Gambia). Nearly 16% of victims named a former husband or partner (24% in Liberia; 21% in Togo and Gambia; 17% in Mauritania, Benin and Sierra Leone; 15% in Nigeria; 11% in Ghana, 10% in Senegal and 5% in Mali) whereas 10% of victims named a former or present boyfriend (30% in Ghana; 14% in Liberia; 10% in Nigeria; 8% in Liberia; 7% in Sierra Leone, Benin and Togo; 6% in Mali and 4% in Senegal).

To a a lot a lesser extent, different perpetrators of sexual violence reported by ladies in West Africa additionally embrace relations, associates, acquaintances or strangers.

High charges of teenage marriage and motherhood

A historically entrenched characteristic of West African societies, teenage motherhood continues to blight communities regardless of shifting fertility behaviors and attitudes towards the household.

The scourge of sexual violence in West Africa, unveiled
Built from the DHS Program on-line knowledge. Credit: STATcompiler, Fourni par l’auteur

In half, this explains why ladies in West Africa usually tend to undergo from sexual violence at a younger age and by the hands of intimate companions. Ariette, talked about above, is one instance out of 1000’s of an early and compelled union that turned violent.

The proportion of girls who’ve had a toddler earlier than age 20 could be very excessive (47% on common), even amongst latest younger cohorts (Figure 4a). This state of affairs goes hand in hand with the early age of the primary union. For instance, amongst ladies aged 20–24 through the 2010–2020 decade in West Africa, 52% entered their first union earlier than age 20, with a low of 32% in Ghana and a excessive of 89% in Niger (Figure 4b).

Domestic violence amongst first-time teenage moms

The hyperlink between the 2 phenomena deserves additional scientific investigation within the context of frequent teenage motherhood and early home (particularly sexual) violence. In conditions like these in sub-Saharan Africa, the place the transmission of household values is rooted in a powerful hierarchy, the violence towards teenage moms will be perpetuated throughout generations.

But the persistence of social norms of early fertility inside a union could conflict with particular person aspirations to freely management fertility selections. This collision can exacerbate ranges of violence, significantly within the early years of childbearing.

To higher analyze these implications, we’re growing the EarlyFertiViolence mission (Early Fertility, Marital Status and Domestic Violence During First Motherhood in West African Countries: Trends, Convergence, Divergence and Associated Factors), which is scheduled to start in 2023, involving analysis labs and researchers at Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne University and the University of Chicago.

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