Share this:

By Ernestine Joy NYANGONO (Download Pdf Version)

Introduction

According to the Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 48/104, “gender-based violence (GBV)” is violence that is perpetrated against a woman or a man simply because she is a woman or because he is a man. This term is mainly used to highlight the systemic inequality between men and women, which exists in all societies in the world and is a founding and even unifying characteristic of most forms of violence committed against women and girls.

Two important surveys that integrate GBV have been conducted in Cameroon. These are the 2011 and 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (DHS-MICS 2011 and DHS-MICS 5 in 2014). The DHS-MICS 5 of 2014 informs us that among women aged 15 to 49, one woman out of ten (11%) was married before the age of 15. Among women aged 20-29, about one in eight (13%) married before the age of 15. Three out of eight women (36%) were married before the age of 18. 31% of women report having been physically abused, 13% “often” and 24% “sometimes”.

GBV can be seen in all regions of Cameroon, with a preponderance in the northern regions. In fact, for all forms of violence against women and girls, statistics show that 60% of women in the Far North region, 53% in the North and 43% in the Adamawa region are victims of GBV. In light of the current challenges related to GBV, it is necessary to examine the effectiveness of existing response mechanisms and to identify measures to be taken in order to revitalize them.

Despite the extent and persistence of the phenomenon, there are very few studies on the situation of GBV in the Far North. The little information that does exist indicates that due to the security crisis in this part of the country and socio-cultural constraints, gender-based violence has continued to increase.

In order to organise the response, the State of Cameroon, supported by its development partners, has initiated numerous large-scale actions aimed at strengthening the structures and mechanisms for combating and caring for women and young girls who are victims of such violence. However, the conflict linked to the incursion of the Boko Haram sect in the Far North and the rise of organised crime in the North and Adamawa regions have seriously affected all community protection mechanisms, thus reducing their response capacity.

In light of the current challenges related to GBV, this study allows us to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing mechanisms and to identify measures to be taken in order to revitalize them. The analysis of GBV response mechanisms revealed several gaps, especially in terms of human and financial resources. Indeed, several structures do not have the human resources needed to act effectively and suffer from a lack of funding for their functioning and activities.

Despite the weak capacities of the actors in the GBV response chain, they have achieved satisfactory results, which not only contribute to the reduction of GBV, but also and especially to a better understanding of the phenomenon. To this end, recommendations were made to strengthen the global strategy at both the regional and national levels.

The effectiveness of the mechanisms to fight

The inequality and discrimination between men and women are the root causes of this gangrene. Added to this are factors such as hyper-masculinity, which is sometimes encouraged, women’s ignorance of their rights and the fear of reporting their aggressors. Violence is therefore on the rise and of all kinds: physical (assault and battery), psychological (humiliation), sexual (rape), social (legal, cultural and other), domestic violence against women (early marriages), violence against women in the community (sexual harassment), violence against women perpetrated by the state (violence against women in prison).

The impact of GBV, although difficult to quantify, is considerable. In terms of education, the fear of going to school, the punishment of girls who refuse a teacher’s advances (bad grades), the stress affecting the quality of their school work, the failure of exams and the dropout rate are common examples. In terms of health, rape of girls leads to significant psychological trauma and unwanted pregnancies. Girls are also at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Socially, GBV limits women’s development and opportunities to participate fully in the social and economic life of their communities.

The improvement of gender equality and the empowerment of women are among the major challenges facing Cameroon in achieving the objectives set out in its Vision 2035. This is furthermore transcribed through the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper and the State’s involvement in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. For several years now, Cameroon, together with its partners, has implemented a development policy focused on the fight against GBV at all levels of the government. Several treaties prove this, notably the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women (Maputo Protocol), which was adopted on 11 July 2003 and entered into force on 25 November 2005, and ratified by Cameroon on 28 May 2009. This Protocol protects women and girls who are at risk of being subjected to harmful practices or any other form of violence, abuse and intolerance. The Additional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women, adopted on 11 July 2003, protects the specific rights of women in various areas of national life, including reproductive health, and stresses the need to eliminate all forms of traditional practices harmful to women. The strategy built around women’s cohesion spaces, call centers and gender desks, is part of the innovations in the management of GBV victims/survivors in a humanitarian context and has helped improve the situation.

In April 2019, the Government, through the Ministry of Women Empowerment and the Family, issued a communiqué warning the media and social network users against the use of images of children and young girls for sexual and pornographic purposes. Equal opportunities are essential for peace; every job is a woman’s job and it is good practice to stop victimising young women and sexual and gender minorities: every girl must go to school. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 recognizes the importance of women’s participation in issues of peace and sustainable security and encourages men’s active participation in the fight against violence against women.

The implementation of a national strategy to fight GBV is an opportunity to revitalise national and even international mechanisms. However, the mechanisms to fight GBV in the Great North are far from being efficient. That is why we make the following recommendations:

Policy Recommendations

  • At the institutional level: discuss GBV in schools; establish a baseline study on the realities of GBV; organize a huge advocacy campaign in favour of taking gender into account in cultural realities and set up a TV and radio program to raise awareness about GBV.
  • For MINPROFF/Government: ensure the implementation and effective follow-up of the national strategy to fight GBV; create a gender observatory in charge of coordination, follow-up and evaluation in the fight against GBV
  • At the level of prevention and care structures: continue to empower women through income-generating activities; strengthen advocacy for free medical examinations and medical certificates for GBV victims; provide annual subsidies for the economic reintegration of survivors and groups of vulnerable women.
  • In terms of coordination between stakeholders: create/strengthen strategic partnerships for resource mobilization; strengthen the organization of monthly coordination meetings at the regional level;
  • Technical and financial partners: continue/strengthen the support provided to the State of Cameroon and to GBV stakeholders.

Conclusion

Despite the scale and persistence of the phenomenon, studies conducted on gender-based violence in the Far North indicate that, due to the security crisis in this part of the country and socio-cultural constraints, gender-based violence has not stopped growing.

In order to organise the response, the State of Cameroon, supported by its development partners, has initiated numerous large-scale actions aimed at strengthening the structures and mechanisms for combating and caring for women and young girls who are victims of such violence. However, the conflict linked to the incursion of the Boko Haram sect in the Far North and the rise of organised crime in the North and Adamawa regions have seriously affected all community protection mechanisms, thus reducing their response capacity.

Faced with the current challenges related to GBV, this article was written to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing mechanisms and to identify measures to be taken in order to revitalize them. The analysis of GBV response mechanisms revealed several gaps, especially in terms of human and financial resources. Indeed, several structures do not have enough staff to act effectively and suffer from a lack of funding for their functioning and activities.

Despite the weak capacities of the actors in the GBV response chain, they have achieved satisfactory results, which not only contribute to the reduction of GBV, but also and especially to a better understanding of the phenomenon. To this end, recommendations were made to strengthen the global strategy.

Download the Pdf Version

A leading African think tank with a mission to provide independent, in-depth and insightful policy recommendations that allows all
Africans to prosper in free, fair, democratic and sustainable economies