Violence Against Women in Cameroon
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make headlines, several other global challenges have come to light as a result. Like with many widespread concerns, crises often intensify the reality of serious issues. This is true regarding violence against women in Cameroon. While violence against women in Cameroon has attracted more attention since the beginning of the pandemic, its existence far precedes COVID-19. However, it is important to recognize that the implications of the current global pandemic worsen the intensity of gender-based violence.

Growing Violence Over Time

Data from 2012 reveals that 51% of women in Cameroon faced some sort of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. According to a 2019 research paper on gender equality in Cameroon, “56.4% of women in [a] union” face some form of violence. Furthermore, discrimination against women in Cameroon extends beyond gender-based violence. For example, 51.5% of women in Cameroon live below the poverty line in comparison to 39% of the general population. Moreover, 80% of women who live below the poverty line endure underemployment. Although COVID-19 is not a root cause of violence against women in Cameroon, it raises awareness regarding the severity of the matter. This growing global recognition draws attention to efforts addressing gender-based violence in the country and beyond.

WACameroon

Women in Action Against Gender Based Violence (WACameroon) began in 2005 as an organization centered around advancing human rights. WACameroon’s main focus is to advocate for a society in which everybody respects and upholds the rights of all. This includes improving the lives of impoverished women and other marginalized groups in Cameroon. WACameroon’s main objectives are:

  1. To encourage peacekeeping and the upholding of human rights.
  2. To create “action-oriented” initiatives to mitigate “gender-based violence and discrimination.”
  3. Improving the health of Cameroon’s population, specifically as it concerns HIV/AIDS.
  4. Ensuring the sustainability of both “natural and human resources.”
  5. Strengthening governance and democracy nationwide.

WACameroon’s efforts have seen success. The organization was able to improve girls’ access to education and female school completion rates while mobilizing “men as partners in the struggle for gender equality.” In addition, WACameroon helped facilitate “access to productive resources [for impoverished women].” With regard to gender-based violence, in particular, WACameroon “empowers perpetrators of [gender-based violence] to become advocates of gender equality.” The organization also empowers women with the confidence and assertiveness to enforce their rights. In 2010, the organization gained international recognition: International Service U.K. presented WACameroon with an International Human Rights award for its work in empowering people in Cameroon.

Opportunity Moving Forward

Violence against women in Cameroon brings more than just physical harm. The lasting effects of gendered violence bring along psychological challenges that can last a lifetime. While addressing these problems requires considerable time and effort, increased support from global organizations is an essential first step in demonstrating that individuals are not alone in their struggles. With the work of organizations like WACameroon, there is a growing awareness of the urgency for resources and aid in addressing violence against women in Cameroon.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Mega-Gangs of Venezuela 
Heavily armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades and military equipment, meta-gangs in Venezuela are unlike typical street gangs. Often, they have more weapons than the police, launching attacks against law enforcement and driving officers from gang territory. Numbering anywhere from 50 to more than 200 members each, the mega-gangs of Venezuela rule over the fearful civilians in their territory with impunity.

The gangs have lost some of their power in recent years, but the political and economic crises in the country are driving people to join them, increasing their influence. Some of the most notorious gangs are “El Koki’s” gang, Los 70 del Valle, Tren de Aragua and El Picure.

El Koki’s Gang

In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, El Koki and his allies had full control of neighborhoods such as El Valle and Cota 905 until July 2021, the latter of which served as his gang’s stronghold. El Koki is distinct from other gang leaders. He never served jail time and is running his gang outside of prison. Additionally, he has already lived to the age of 43 when the average criminal in the country’s poorest areas does not live past 25. He has also had an outstanding arrest warrant since 2012.

In 2012, the Venezuelan government developed the “peace zones” policy. It began negotiations with hundreds of gangs from all over the country. The government offered a truce in which police would stay out of designated neighborhoods if the gangs ceased criminal activity in addition to providing financial incentives for gangsters to disarm. One such incentive was the use of money and other resources meant for starting legitimate businesses.

The policy backfired, however, when gangs like El Koki’s gang began using the money to discretely acquire heavier weaponry, as reported in El Pais. El Koki and other gang leaders also took advantage of Venezuela’s criminal organizations gathering for negotiations to bolster the size of their gangs. Merging with these other groups, they formed the numerous mega-gangs of Venezuela that followed the implementation of peace zones.

The “Peace Zones”

One of the established peace zones was Cota 905. El Koki seized the opportunity there due to the lack of a permanent police presence. He strengthened his control as he killed off rival gang leaders and made alliances with others. For four years prior to June 2021, the police did not cross into Cota 905 once to enforce the law, something El Koki’s connections to the military and government may have had a hand in. In June, however, the truce between El Koki’s gang and law enforcement fully broke down. The two sides entered a war when the gang invaded the La Vega neighborhood southwest of Cota 905.

Demonstrating how empowered the mega-gangs of Venezuela have become, El Koki’s gang launched an attack on central police headquarters. The government retaliated by sending roughly 800 troops into Cota 905, where they went door to door battling the gang. According to InSight Crime, El Koki’s whereabouts are unknown. However, some have said that he may be in Cúcuta, Columbia, a common sanctuary for Venezuelan gangsters where he can continue to run his gang.

Tren de Aragua

In the state of Aragua, the mega-gang Tren de Aragua operates out of Tocorón prison. With nearly 3,000 members in groups spread across the country and expanding into nations like Columbia and Peru, Tren de Aragua, once a railroad workers’ union, is the most powerful criminal organization in Venezuela. Last spring, the gang made headlines with the completion of a baseball stadium it constructed within the prison it occupies. Reportedly possessing other luxuries such as a swimming pool and a disco hall while brandishing greater firepower than the police, the gang has demonstrated its financial success to an impoverished nation enduring an economic crisis.

Using its large arsenal, vast numbers and extreme wealth, Tren de Aragua has been able to expand rapidly as it repeatedly clashes with police and the military. Like other mega-gangs, it is alluring to people in poverty who do not get enough help from the government, have limited opportunities and are lacking in police protection. According to Mirror, to entice youths and build rapport with communities, it offers food packages at a time when much of the population faces starvation due to poor economic conditions that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened.

Police Brutality

It is not strictly poverty and recruitment efforts that motivate people to join and comply with the mega-gangs. Police brutality is another contributing factor and extrajudicial killings in retaliation for gang violence are all too common. As El Pais reported, in July 2021, more than 3,000 officers responded to gun violence between police and El Koki’s gang. There were reports of the police committing extrajudicial executions and robberies, and the circumstance resulted in 24 victims. When police assume the role of executioner and their responses to gang activity cause innocents to die, people end up in the mega-gangs for membership and protection.

The Work of NGOs

Currently, various NGOs and nonprofits are working to alleviate the situation in Venezuela. One such nonprofit is InSight Crime, which conducts investigative journalism, data analysis and makes policy suggestions for governments regarding organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. InSight Crime speaks with police and officials when doing on-the-ground research. It also interacts with people involved in illegal activity to gain their perspective.

The International Crisis Group organization advises governments on preventing, managing and resolving deadly conflicts. Additionally, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is an organization that operates in Ecuador and provides shelter and supplies to migrants who the ongoing turmoil and violence displaced. There are also local organizations such as Mi Convive, a nonprofit that feeds thousands of hungry children a week. Nonprofits providing food to children like Mi Convive are essential in preventing mega-gangs from bribing them with food.

Other Solutions

The Venezuelan government is addressing the high levels of gang violence with police reform and crackdowns to kill or drive gang leaders out of their territory. However, to put an end to organized crime and dismantle the mega-gangs of Venezuela, the government must take a complex, multifaceted approach. Corruption in politics and the military has led to impunity and the mega-gangs becoming better armed than the police. Eliminating financial incentives for organized crime is important. Otherwise, materially motivated criminals will continue to organize for profit. The police and other local public institutions should receive empowerment to rally their communities. They should act against the mega-gangs while scaling back military involvement.

The Venezuelan government, NGOs and foreign nations must work together. They have to ensure there is funding for robust social programs and that Venezuelans have economic opportunities where they live. They should be doing sufficient community outreach to sway people from the criminals and meta-gangs of Venezuela should be facing appropriate consequences.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

Jarawa tribe
“Dance,” pressured the policeman to the tribal women who were naked from the waist up. “Dance for me,” he pestered, offering them food in exchange for coercing the semi-naked tribe members to put on a performance for his entertainment. This was a viral video from 2012 that brought mainstream attention to the Jarawa tribe. The video shows a tourist fantasy for those who encroach upon the land for a “human safari” experience. The Jarawa, a tribe that some once hunted down during colonial British rule, now runs the risk of extinction due to growing modern-day threats.

About the Jarawa Tribe

According to scholar George Weber, the Jarawa tribe are Pygmy Negrito people living in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India who are “a remnant population representing perhaps the earliest migration out of Africa of modern Homo Sapiens.” This Paleolithic tribe that still lives a Stone Age hunter-gatherer lifestyle has around 450 members in total. The tribe represents one of the four tribal communities (Great Andamanese, Onge and Sentinelese) living in the region who for the longest time refused contact with modern society. Unlike the Sentinelese tribe who refuse contact violently, the bow and arrow-wielding Jarawa tribe first established peaceful contact with the Indian government in 1997.

The Threats the Jarawa Tribe Faces

While making half-naked women dance is common, poachers similarly lure young tribal women with groceries, alcohol and meat to harm them physically and sexually exploit them. The government-approved “contact” resulted in alcohol and smoking addictions as well as the spread of diseases (the tribes lack the immunity of modern people) with COVID-19 now becoming one of their gravest threats. Additionally, a growing number of settlers is encroaching on tribal land. With one Jarawa for every 1,000 settlers, the wealthier settlers tend to deplete tribal land of resources.

But the most threatening thing to the Jarawa tribe today is “mainstreaming.” Mainstreaming refers to the policy of pushing a tribe to join the country’s dominant modern society. This most notably strips the tribe of its self-sufficiency and identity, leaving them struggling at the margins of society. The Borgen Project spoke with Yash Meghwal, the spokesperson of Tribal Army, a leading organization in India that has been fighting against tribal injustice. According to Meghwal, hunter-gatherer, tribal populations like the Jarawas are “not equipped to survive in a market-based economy.” Elaborating on this, he stated that “to move into the upper echelon of society, one must have proper education and then the adequate business or job opportunity” which governments have failed to provide to the tribes.

The Latest Threat: Human Safaris

Interactions with modern society increased after the construction of the Andaman Trunk Road. The road cuts through the Jarawa tribe’s reserve forests and brought in a large population of refugee settlers. Tour companies now allow “human safari” experiences along this road. This does not just exacerbate abuse, addictions and the spread of diseases from interaction with modern people. It also encourages the treatment of tribes as if they are zoo animals. This cultivates the dehumanization of tribal people. As Meghwal put it, “we are failing if our citizens are equated with wild animals.” Human safaris exist to profit from the poor, powerless tribal population. Thus, the tourism industry has emerged at the expense of their privacy, dignity, health and human rights.

When referring to the road, Meghwal said that “the state is only interested in making new roads as infrastructure. Modern society does not care about the ecological and environmental balance; their focus is more on the extraction from the tribal land.”

Larger Problem of Tribal Discrimination

Discrimination in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is emblematic of a larger problem of tribal discrimination. Unfortunately, this level of discrimination is far bigger than the confines of the Islands. Meghwal claimed that this discrimination comes from conflating the tribal population with the Dalits. The Dalits are among the Indian lower caste. The Indian caste system is a hierarchal system that ascribes supremacy to one group and untouchability to the other. “Both Dalits and tribes suffer similar nature problems such as deprivation, discrimination and exclusion,” Meghwal claimed.

The Borgen Project also spoke with Jarken Gadi. He is a former sociology professor who is now a fellow for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. According to Gadi, this discrimination is a product of “the lack of awareness supplied by educational institutions and media houses.”

Tribal Army as a Solution

Hansraj Meena, one of the most prominent tribal activists in India, founded Tribal Army. This organization may hold the solution to the discrimination of the Jarawa tribe and other tribes across the country. Meghwal claimed that people should grant tribes rights in the case of land and forests. He also mentioned that “we should avoid [letting] too many outsiders into tribal territory.” Additionally, he stated that there is also a need for constitutional measures to protect tribes as they participate in the market economy. Tribal Army has also called for requirements of “reservation in the private sector and in business,” stating “it is the most necessary step for tribal welfare.”

Gadi’s solution to discrimination and threats is a call for awareness programs which the government initiated. These programs would teach the public about the different tribes and how they should treat them. The education system and media can influence thought, change negative attitudes and stop harmful actions toward the tribal community.

Organizations like Tribal Army constantly advocate for policy change. People are challenging the status quo of tribal discrimination. With advancements like these, positive change can come for the Jarawa tribe and for overall tribal welfare.

– Iris Anne Lobo
Photo: Flickr

Violence Against Rohingya Women
In August 2017, more than half a million Rohingya living in the Rakhine state had to flee to Bangladesh and escape the military’s crackdown on the Muslim minority. As of 2020, approximately 900,000 Rohingya were living in southern Bangladesh in cramped refugee camps with overwhelmed resources. In addition to fearing widespread genocide and ethnic cleansing, some of the Rohingya refugee community also experience gender-based violence and assault. In fact, violence against Rohingya women is quite prevalent.

Sexual Violence Against Rohingya Women

Accusations emerged that the Myanmar military committed widespread rape against women and girls in the months following the initial purge of Rohingya from the Rakhine state as a means of intimidating the population and instigating fear. In an annual watch list of security forces and armed groups suspected of using rape and sexual violence in conflict, the U.N. listed Myanmar’s army in 2018. Responding to the aftermath of the August 2017 violence, Médecins Sans Frontières reported that at least 230 survivors of sexual violence in the camps, including up to 162 rape victims.

Violence from Both Sides

A recent New Humanitarian interview with six Rohingya women found that violence against Rohingya women is prevalent and stems from within the community. Women often experience persecution if they are outspoken about women’s rights or have an education. Women in the camps have reported experiencing harassment, kidnapping and attacks by groups with an affiliation to Rohingya militant groups such as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Further, in 2019, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) launched an effort to empower women through self-organization and engagement in formal and informal decision-making and leadership positions. Now, however, Rohingya women who volunteer for NGOs have recounted how the “night government” or ARSA have threatened to abuse them and evict them from their house if they do not stop their work.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Further, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, humanitarian groups including U.N. Women and UNCHR reported an increase in gender-based violence and child marriages. An International Rescue Committee (IRC) report from January 2021 found that reductions in protection staff led to a decrease in the Rohingya community’s trust of and communication with protection actors and “a vacuum in conflict, mediation and legal services.” In addition, the IRC found that the decision of the Bangladeshi government to suspend gender-based violence prevention programs such as Girl Shine, reduced the number of reports of instances in camps. EMAP and Start, Awareness, Support, Action (SASAI) impacted community awareness and reporting of cases significantly.

Double-Edged Sword

Highly dependent on community volunteers, aid groups are unsure of how to proceed; on the one hand, if aid groups continue to employ women volunteers, they risk endangering these women and making their situation worse. Indeed, in March 2021, days before International Women’s Day, U.N. Women canceled a billboard campaign that was to feature the faces of multiple women leaders as it feared it would cause unintentional harm. However, on the other hand, not employing women means a lack of empowerment and stable income.

In searching for solutions to the growing violence in the camps, many Rohingya have decided to relocate to Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Benegal but which is prone to natural weather disasters such as cyclones and storm surges. Since December 2020, 19,000 Rohingya have moved to ‘the floating jail’ as some groups call it. Another proposed solution would be to increase security in the camps, but aid workers fear notifying Bangladeshi authorities of the violence will tighten the already strict restrictions on the Rohingya and infringe on their limited freedoms.

Resilience

Despite such challenges and somewhat problematic solutions, Rohingya women continue to demonstrate resilience. One of the women the New Humanitarian interviewed who started receiving threatening voice messages after she called for women’s equality in an aid organization video, decided to push back and continue posting her video on social media. She claimed that “When someone is speaking courageously, they stop.”

– Annarosa Zampaglione
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the DRCConflict and poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have once again become causes of concern. Conflicts have escalated in recent months and resulted in a crisis that impacts enormous swaths of the country. Since there is a strong link between conflict and poverty in the DRC, international attention and aid efforts have shifted to combat the situation.

The Ongoing Conflict

The current crisis and the damaging relationship between conflict and poverty in the DRC is a persistent problem. For years, the DRC experienced widespread violence, especially in the country’s eastern provinces. About 3,000 civilians died in the eastern part of the country in 2020 alone. There were also much higher rates of human rights violations in 2020 in the DRC. The violence has a destabilizing effect on the entire region.

The most recent escalation in violence occurred as armed groups went on the offensive following military efforts by government forces in 2020. The worst of the fighting is in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. Attacks in recent months in the province of North Kivu displaced nearly 20,000 people. Additionally, about two million people experienced displacement within the province in the last two years.

Interaction Between Conflict and Poverty

The World Bank estimates that nearly 64% of the country lives in extreme poverty. The conflict is one of the key contributors to poverty in the country. In 2017 and 2018, there were two million displaced persons. Additionally, the violence is so widespread that many people have fled multiple times.

Conflict and poverty also resulted in an immense food shortage in the DRC. Hunger in the DRC skyrocketed in recent months due to conflict and COVID-19. “A record 27.3 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are facing acute hunger, one-third of the violence-wracked Central African country’s population.” The areas that have the highest rates of hunger have also experienced widespread conflict.

Aid Efforts

The need for assistance to the DRC is massive. Organizations are providing as much assistance as possible for Congolese people suffering from hunger, conflict and poverty. The UNHCR and other organizations coordinated with local authorities. Since the start of 2020, the UNHCR has provided more than 100,000 people with emergency shelters. The current UNHCR operation in the country has so far only received 36% of the funding necessary.

The World Food Programme (WFP) alone assisted almost seven million people throughout the country in 2020. The WFP distributed tens of millions of dollars of cash assistance throughout the country and tens of thousands of metric tons of food in 2020. However, the WFP stated that it would need $662 million in 2021 alone to address the crisis.

The people of the DRC suffer from a crisis of conflict and poverty. The widespread conflict plays a critical role in keeping most of the population in extreme poverty and causing widespread hunger throughout the country. As a result, sizable amounts of aid have come from organizations such as the UNHCR and the WFP. Still, these efforts require more support from the international community to effectively combat this crisis of conflict and poverty in the DRC.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

Sexual Assault in South AfricaOver 50 care centers in South Africa provide support and resources for survivors of sexual crimes. They serve as “one-stop facilities” for those seeking help. Their mission is “to reduce secondary victimization, improve conviction rates and reduce the time between when a crime is committed and when the perpetrator is finally convicted.” These centers have had success but the overall number of sexual assaults in South Africa, which in reality are most likely significantly higher, are staggering.

Sexual Assault in South Africa

Sexual assault in South Africa is shockingly high. Estimates determined that a sexual offense occurs every 10 minutes. Between April 2019 and March 2020, police statistics reported 53,295 sexual offenses but it is likely that most crimes are not reported. The Medical Health Council estimates that victims only report one in nine attacks. Violence toward women seems to be a normalized part of society as data from 2000 shows similar results. Some claim women in South Africa might experience rape every 17 seconds. Others say every 26 seconds but regardless of exact numbers, it is clear sexual violence toward women is a massive problem for the country.

Police are defensive about sexual assault in South Africa. They say the rate of sexual offenses decreased in the province of Gauteng, but the Institute for Security Studies has pointed out a flaw in their logic. If one considers updated population statistics, the rate of sexual assault increases by 1.5%. As a result, one can determine that 127 people out of 100,000 people were victims of sexual assault.

Rape is an extremely underreported crime. A study in Gauteng in 2010 showed that one-quarter of women who underwent questioning experienced rape in 2009. However, “only one in 13 women raped by a non-partner reported the matter to the police, while only one in 25 of the women raped by their partners reported this to the police.” Therefore, as previously mentioned, statistics about sexual assault in South Africa only show a small amount.

Why Are Numbers So High?

A few factors can show why sexual assault in South Africa is so high. These include how the country struggled to move on from apartheid along with high unemployment, high poverty and unequal land distribution. Both the government and pro-democracy groups used violence to further goals, and after 50 years, society saw violence as normal. The government “used violence to keep control over the ‘non-white’ population, whilst the pro-democracy campaign encouraged violence as a means to further their goals.” The police used violence against women which led to many women fearing or mistrusting the police. This mindset continues to this day.

Police Conviction Records

Convictions for instances of sexual assault in South Africa are low. Around 14% of perpetrators receive sentences for sexual assault with that number going down to 3% when it is against adult women. Around one in 400 rapes in South Africa end in a conviction. Reports say some police take bribes so charges will go away and in Southern Johannesburg, around one in 20 pieces of evidence goes missing. The reasons why most women do not report sexual abuse are clear, as are the reasons why the real number is high. The chances of conviction are very low. While numbers and data often are skewed and naturally change over time, the overall amount of evidence suggests clear problems in the police force when it comes to responding to sexual assault.

Care Centers

Thuthuzela Care Centers have really helped people and since 2006, 51 centers have emerged. The centers are helping survivors and trying to improve conviction rates. Most are near or even attached to hospitals as sometimes medical assistance is necessary. For years, the centers made progress, and now, many centers get around 60-80 patients a month. During holidays, the number is up to around 100-120. The United Nations and the government are currently working to improve the centers even more.

Care centers operate using a five-step process:

  1. A survivor reports a rape case to a center or police station.
  2. The staff at the centers help the survivor obtain medical attention.
  3. The care centers organize counseling for the survivor.
  4. The staff at the centers help the survivor open a police case, which can occur at any time.
  5. The staff arranges ongoing counseling and court preparation for the survivor.

The care centers provide many services to help survivors. However, long-term solutions should also emerge so the actual root of the problem can reach a resolution. However, care centers are still a significant step in the right direction.

– Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

Law in South Africa
The poorest citizens of South Africa are amidst a turning point in their history. In July 2021, stress from socioeconomic and pandemic-related challenges boiled to civil unrest after the July 2021 arrest of former president Jacob Zuma. The relationship between circumstances of poverty and conflict drives a volatile history of fragility and rule of law in South Africa and presents challenges to overcoming poverty in the nation.

The Link Between Conflict and Poverty

Poverty and conflict are inseparable resultants of each other: where there is poverty, the fragility and rule of law of a governing body are prone to violence. When more citizens are subject to poor living conditions, the likelihood of conflict is increased. A 2011 report on conflict and poverty describes poverty as a “causal arrow… to the conflict.” This means fragility and rule of law in South Africa are reliant on the improvement of poverty-related conditions. This is due to political promises that call for the end of poverty in the nation. Recent violence suggests that citizens living in poverty believe promises fall short of action. South African unrest in 2021 is anecdotal evidence of the connection poverty and conflict have with each other.

South African Frustration

A 2014 report describes South African citizens taking part in violence as “clamoring for the redemption of the promises made to them.” This description explains the circumstance by which fragility and rule of law in South Africa are affected. Unrest in South Africa explains that poverty plays a major role in exacerbating conflict and makes it clear South Africa has a fragile economy. Those taking part in the widespread unrest were not exercising a meticulously planned attack on the South African government. Rather, those who were looting were filling the absence of governmental aid in the first place. For example, the nation is dealing with a third COVID-19 wave along with rising unemployment. Frustrations in poverty response allowed for unrest to grow in the nation. Jacob Zuma’s arrest was a tipping point in the conflict already consuming lives in South Africa.

Addressing Poverty in South Africa

Poverty reduction efforts in South Africa are mixed. Frustration pointed toward the government reveals widespread poverty. The South African economy has slowed its growth in the past decade. Additionally, the nation has a wide economic disparity between citizens. This disparity is affecting fragility and rule of law in South Africa substantially. In a 2012 report, the Brookings Institution described the nation as “the most consistently unequal country in the world.” Development in the nation has left out a large portion of those living in poverty which means some forgo financial stability.

Regardless of South Africa’s scenario, a key in reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law. The 2011 World Development Report argues that “strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to provide citizen security, justice and jobs is crucial to break cycles of violence.” This is the goal of current institutions within South Africa. In 2015, the African National Committee, the ruling party of South Africa, adopted The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an addition to its 2012 National Development Plan. The combined goals aim for the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequality by 2030.

COVID-19 Complications

Progress in sustainable development has not substantially reduced poverty. Rather, the World Bank estimated that poverty increased by 9% due to COVID-19. An increase in unemployment from coronavirus lockdowns highlights the current challenges in reaching the same goals.

Pandemic-related challenges to reducing poverty point to the boiling of governmental control. An increase in household instability during COVID-19 affected fragility and rule of law in South Africa. This explains the recent conflict in the region. Reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law in South Africa.

Addressing poverty and economic disparity in South Africa means answering the roots of conflict. Frustrations with the South African government lie within the ability for individuals to have access to human necessities. Foreign assistance and continual support for South Africa’s SDGs can aid efforts to reduce conflict that induces poverty in South Africa.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

riots in South AfricaSouth Africa’s poverty rates have long been high, and the pandemic exacerbated the situation for the country’s lowest-income people. Furthermore, weeks of riots in South Africa have left buildings burning, food scarce and many people in Durban and the surrounding cities starving.

Reasons for the Riots

On July 8, South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma started serving a sentence of 15 months in prison for contempt of court, an offense that entails disrespectful or insulting behavior toward a court of law or law officials. Zuma’s imprisonment angered supporters, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. As a result, violence and unrest began to spread within the province.

Rioters blocked major highways and burned about 20 trucks, resulting in the closing of two major roads that link the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay to the industrial hub of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Furthermore, looters ransacked shopping malls, taking food, electronics, clothes and liquor. The attacks spread through KwaZulu-Natal to the Gauteng province, the country’s largest city of Johannesburg and the seat of the country’s executive branch, Pretoria. In Durban and Pietermaritzburg, rioters also burned warehouses and factories, collapsing many of their roofs. A week into the riots, 25,000 army troops were deployed, ending the violence, but plenty of damage had already been done.

The Manipulation of the Poor

Thousands of businesses have closed due to fear of ambush by rioters. In addition, because of many looters taking clothes, food, medical supplies and even flat-screen TVs, more than 200 malls have been forced to shut down.

With many businesses closing down in the Durban area, food, clothes and other supplies are rarities. For people living in poverty in Durban and the surrounding towns, food was always scarce, but now it is even more so than usual. Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political analyst, said the communities have left people in poverty to fend for themselves in a system that keeps them in poverty, causing them to start lashing out.

While the riots initially protested the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, their continuation reflected general grievances over the inequality and poverty that have rocked the country. Amid people in poverty’s anger about decades of mistreatment and discrimination, criminals used the chaos for their own benefit.

July’s riots hit people with unstocked pantries and massive debt the hardest. President Cyril Ramaphosa sent troops to aid police in quelling the riots, but people in poverty remained in need of immediate relief.

Muslims for Humanity

Many Muslim organizations in South Africa have come together to bring relief to people impacted by the riots. South African Muslim businesses and NGOs such as Muslims for Humanity and Natal Memon Jamaat Foundation (NMJ) have come together to distribute bread and milk to communities impacted by violence and looting in the Durban area.

Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr

Women’s rights in FranceWith the rise of women’s rights movements in recent years, French citizens have mobilized to address gender issues, especially the prevalence of femicide and domestic violence. France has made much progress in the realm of gender equality, including the establishment of policies and programs promoting women’s rights in France under the Macron administration. However, there is still much to be done to reach true equality and to end gender-based violence.

Violence Against Women

In France, femicides —  the killing of women by a relative or significant other — have been a significant reason for protest in recent years. La Fondation des Femmes, or the Women’s Foundation, is one protest group that has formed around the issue as it believes government efforts to curb the violence are not enough to keep citizens safe. In a recent article from the BBC, the Women’s Foundation criticized the lack of adequate gun policy as firearms are one of the most common weapons used in femicides.

Additionally, pandemic-induced lockdowns have forced many women to be confined in the same space as abusers, resulting in a 30% increase in domestic violence reports, according to France24. Due to its continued prevalence, gender violence is a central concern for activists advocating for women’s rights in France.

The #MeToo movement also gained traction in France in 2017 under the French name #BalanceTonPorc. Though there were no significant convictions or resignations of perpetrators of sexual violence at first, the rise in protests and social media movements greatly increased the visibility of victims in 2020.

Efforts to Combat Gender-Based Violence

President Emmanuel Macron’s emphasis on gender equality provided much hope for feminist voters during his 2017 presidential campaign. As part of his pledge to support women’s rights in France, Macron implemented protective policies for women and has established the position of Secretariat of Equality between Women and Men, a role currently held by Marlène Schiappa. Under Macron’s administration, France scored 75.1% in 2020 in terms of the Gender Equality Index, ranking third-best among all members of the EU.

In response to protests and the advocacy of groups such as the Women’s Foundation, the French government implemented several pieces of legislation addressing gender violence. According to the BBC, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held a domestic violence conference in 2019, during which he pledged to increase the number of temporary shelters for victims, improve the procedures of domestic violence cases and contribute more than $6 million to the cause. French parliament added to these measures by approving a law permitting doctors to reveal the identity of a patient if domestic violence is putting the patient’s life at risk.

Women’s Rights Progress

There has been some improvement as between 2019 and 2020 the number of domestic murders of women decreased from 146 to 90, a historically low number that the government believes to be a result of the work of its policies and law enforcement.

Despite government efforts to decrease gender violence, many individuals are still concerned by the alarming numbers of femicides. Protest groups in France are creating street collages highlighting femicide and sexual harassment. Caroline De Haas, the founder of the feminist movement NousToutes, told the Guardian that “nearly 100 deaths is no reason to celebrate.”

There are several hopeful developments for gender equality in France. However, despite an explicit government commitment to equality, the government must take additional steps to conquer disparities in female employment and leadership, gender violence, harassment and wage gaps. The continued protests asserting an end to violence against women demonstrate the need for more policy and execution of legislation for women’s rights in France.

Sarah Stolar
Photo: pixabay

Books From the Front Lines
On March 4, 2021, outrage flooded the streets of India after the news of a new honor killing. Honor killings happen when a girl or a woman becomes a victim of murder for shaming her family. Often these women are victims of physical abuse, verbal abuse or sexual assault. Bringing attention to the topic of honor-based killings and violence against women and girls are authors that have either experienced these inhumane acts first hand or reported them. Authors from across the globe are giving women a voice against the violence, honor killings and crimes they may suffer at the hands of family members. Below are four books from the front lines that exemplify the courage it takes to speak against honor-based killings.

“Murder in the Name of Honor” by Rara Husseini

In this book, author Rara Husseini provides real-life accounts of honor killings. One focus of the book is the tragic story of Kifaya. Her brother took her life after he sexually assaulted her. Husseini detailed the family’s indifference to her investigation to garner justice for the girl. In an interview with Kifaya’s uncles, Husseini dove deeper into the mistreatment of the young woman even after her death. “They spoke of her as if they were speaking about a sheep, these men were part of the conspiracy, her body not yet cold yet they were here smoking and drinking like nothing happened.”

As a journalist who commits to the truth at every turn, Husseini does not turn away from a confrontation. She has been fighting the articles and laws that protect murderers like Kifaya’s brother and has turned the story of Kifaya into one of recognition in face of adversity.

“Unbroken Spirit” by Ferzanna Riley

Ferzanna Riley, the author of “Unbroken Spirit,” was born to Muslim parents in Pakistan. She experienced a hard upbringing. The deception and betrayal that she and her sister experienced from their parents led them to return to Pakistan from their new home in London. Trapped in a home that permitted violence, Ferzanna questioned her faith daily. In this astonishing true story about faith, loss and violence, readers can learn about Riley’s strength and her unbroken spirit, despite living in an abusive home.

“Daughters of Shame” by Jasvinder Sanghera

In a family where honor matters more than anything, freedom often means risking it all for a way out. This was the case for Jasvinder Sanghera, who was born in England to seven sisters and one brother. All of her sisters married before the age of 16. When she was 14, her family showed her a photograph of a man they told her she was to marry. This began a series of repeated attempts to get Jasvinder to marry. “Daughters of Shame” recounted Jasvinder’s estranged family relationship after she ran away from home at the age of 16.

“Beyond Honour” by Tahira S. Khan

These books from the front lines are a view into the injustices of honor-based killings. The author Tahira S. Khan takes these insights a step further to examine the causes, motives and political aspects of honor-based killings. Tahira S. Khan is a distinguished professor whose work receives inspiration from experience and academic study. She obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in International studies. “Beyond Honour” goes in-depth to examine honor killings as crimes of historical importance.

Honor killings are crimes against humanity. The repercussions of such horrendous actions are something no family should bear witness to. The group Honour-Based Violence Network brings awareness and action to ending honor killings. Its library includes books from the front lines by authors like Rara Husseini, Ferzanna Riley, Jasvinder Sanghera and Tahira S. Khan. One can access these works of great achievement here to obtain awareness about honor-based killings.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr