GENEVA Switzerland, 12 August 2013, – A young girl in Domain Marial, a mining community in DRC, risks being sold by her family into an arranged marriage by the age of thirteen. She is likely to face physical and sexual violence from her husband and other men in the community. She risks HIV, maternal malnutrition and other health problems that her husband may not allow to be treated. Her husband will own their land and, if he takes a second wife or abandons her, he is unlikely to support any children.
A new report by the Good Shepherd Foundation, developed with the assistance of Youth Economic Justice, reveals that women in the DRC are at considerable risk of violence in their homes and in the community. The report was presented to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in June 2013 at the 55th session as part of a progress report presented to the Convention by the Democratic Republic of Congo.
CEDAW comprises a body of independent experts that monitor implementation of the Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women. Under the Office of the High Commissions for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Committee reviews progress reports submitted by State parties and accepts submissions by non-government parties on the implementation of the Convention by reporting States.
The report from GSF and YEJ cites economic insecurity as a prime risk factor for gender-based violence. Families in economic distress are likely to force their daughters to marry in order to secure dowry payments from future husbands. In turn, women believe that sexual submission to men will bring economic security in the form of a husband who will provide for them and are thus easily coerced into abusive relationships.
The Congolese legal system fails to protect women. Dowry is permitted. Marriage is legal from the age of 15, but prosecutions for earlier marriages are rare. DRC law allows women to be paid less than men; it requires women to take their husband’s permission before engaging in legal and public life; and it entrusts the management of all property to the husband.
Following extensive community-based research, YEJ and GSF have proposed a range of recommendations as part of the report. YEJ advises amendments to the DRC Family Code and the Labour Code where these instruments expressly discriminate against women. YEJ suggests that reproductive health services could serve as an entry-point to supporting women in abusive relationships. YEJ recommends education and public advocacy to sensitise the community on the issue of gender-based violence. YEJ proposes a range of initiatives and programmes designed to increase the economic empowerment of women and reducing violence against women.
You can view the report on the OHCHR website.