Violence Against Women in Cameroon

Reports show that the human rights situation in Cameroon is extremely poor which is especially detrimental to the most vulnerable groups of society, such as women. An analysis of the legal and socio-economic and political status of women in Cameroon shows the link between the high levels of violence against women in Cameroon and their low status in all aspects of life. This is according to The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), which has expressed its concern regarding violence against women in Cameroon at the 31st Session of the UN Committee against Torture. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) expresses its concern regarding violence against women in Cameroon at the 31st Session of the UN Committee against Torture. The UN Committee against Torture will started on 18 November 2003 its examination of the implementation of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by Cameroon. On that occasion, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) submitted an alternative country report entitled "Violence against Women in Cameroon" in which it expressed grave concern at reports of violence against women at the hands of both state officials and private individuals. Reports continue to show that the human rights situation in Cameroon is extremely poor which is especially detrimental to the most vulnerable groups of society, such as women. An analyses of the legal and socio-economic and political status of women in Cameroon shows the link between the high levels of violence against women in Cameroon and their low status in all aspects of life. OMCT noticed the persistence of gender discriminatory provisions in several laws and the discriminatory customary law, as well as the prejudices and stereotypical attitudes concerning the role of women and men in the family and society. These roles are based on the notion of the superiority of men and the subordination of women. The low socio-economic status of women, which is, for example, manifested by the high illiteracy rate among women and low representation of women in politics, leaves women more vulnerable to violence at the public and private levels in Cameroon. OMCT is extremely concerned about the persisting reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, by state officials, arbitrary arrests and detention, and extra-judicial killings and the impunity with which these human rights violations are met. Women in detention centres are particularly subjected to gender- specific forms of torture such as rape and other forms of sexual violence by both prison guards and other inmates. Women and men are detained in the same cells. According to reliable reports, there are cases in which women have been housed naked in mixed cells with men, stripped naked, stripped naked and forced to dance, their bodies insulted and mocked or forced to stand in the sun naked. When the method of torture consists of rape or sexual assault, it is less likely that the victim will complain out of fear and shame, thus leading to the negation of this violation and the impunity of the torturer. Violence against women in the family is also a grave problem in Cameroon. Often the parents of the bride are paid a "bride price" by the husband. This has led men to regard their wife as property for which they have paid and the men and his family feel entitled to the physical labor of the wife. It makes it also extremely difficult for a woman to divorce from her husband. OMCT noted that the Government has failed to take decisive action to combat the problem, such as passing legislation specifically prohibiting domestic violence abuse or training officials so that they understand the complexities of issues surrounding this type of abuse. Moreover, there has been no awareness raising campaign at the Government level in order to eliminate domestic violence against women. Overall, the government of Cameroon fails to protect women from violence whether at the hands of private individuals or state officials. OMCT's report concluded that while Cameroon has a duty under international law to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish all forms of violence against women, irrespective of whether this violence is committed by public or private individuals, this obligation has not been adequately implemented at the national level. For copies of the alternative report on "Violence against Women in Cameroon" or for further information on OMCT's programme on Violence against Women please contact Carin Benninger-Budel at + 41 22 809 4939 or cbb@omct.org.


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