What Must Governments Do in a Femicide Crisis?
Updated: Jul 15
Photographer: Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images via Getty Images
We are faced with a deadly crisis. One that is deadlier than Covid-19. That is femicide. A gendered pandemic. The rate at which men are killing women is both enraging and petrifying. In my last post, I highlighted the rates of femicide in Southern Africa. This time I focus on West Africa.
Nigerian, Vera Uwaila Omozuwa was a student of the University of Benin, recently found half naked in a pool of her own blood. She was gang raped and hit with a fire extinguisher that left her unconscious. In 2019, a serial killer haunted the streets of Nigeria and killed 15 women. He confessed to killing five in Port Harcourt, seven in Owerri, and three in Lagos. Why? Because he had the urge to kill, the police reported. You would expect an outcry for justice. Yet, that was not the case. The victims were branded as prostitutes because they were killed in hotels.
Covid-19 dictates that we stay indoors and maintain extreme social distancing. When women in Nigeria are being hunted like animals, what should the women do? When women in Mali are killed to appease ethnic cults, what should the women do? When Ghanaian men feel like they own women and kill them if they are not submissive, what should the women do? Should they stay at home and distance themselves? Keep in mind that their homes are also unsafe. Anthonia Iheme was killed in her home by her husband and so was Grace Ogiehor-Enoma. Nigerian women are unsafe everywhere. In 2019, Nigerian women flooded the streets to protest femicide.
“The women in Port Harcourt no longer feel safe, because we don’t know when we’ll be murdered. So, we ask for protection. The government can protect us. They can do something,” said one protester. This is Africa
What are governments doing about femicide? Why are governments not treating femicide as a crisis? Is it not worth national or even international attention? Why are governments not strongly countering femicide?
It is the duty of governments to create environments where their female population is safe. These environments can be created by re-educating the society. It is through this re-education that men will be taught that the toxic patriarchal narratives that have maintained male dominance over women are oppressive and against the Human Rights and Equality Commission that awards every human being equal entitlements regardless of gender. Moreover, it is the responsibility of governments to employ effective policies and legislation against gender-based violence and femicide.
In Guinea Bissau, women are being slaughtered for petty things like engaging in sexual activities and not dressing accordingly as per the Islamic codes. According to United Nations Human Rights Watch, Guinea stand at number 5 of countries with the highest killings of women in Africa. Men must understand and accept that they are not proprietors over women and they have no right to their bodies, especially to the extent of femicide. The legal stance of Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Nigeria and Mali on the equality of men and women as enshrined in their constitutions must be more than words. Still in Guinea Bissau, women are murdered because they have been raped or they want to leave abuse marriages some of which were forced. In countries where terrorism is rampant such as Burkina Faso, women die disproportionately. This shows that the same women who are already vulnerable in society become more vulnerable in states filled with conflict.
The president of the Mali based non-profit, Women in Law and Development in Africa, argued that the police reported at least 300 women are victims of sexual violence every year in Bamako, but the actual figure is much higher. In Ghana young virgin girls are enslaved to talisman shrines to redeem the names of their deviant male relatives.Ghana is one country where many women feel like men have the right to ‘discipline’ them if they do not perform their duties. Because of this mentality women stay in abusive relationships and end up dead. A study on femicide in Ghana showed that 26 out of the 35 cases were premeditated. This means that the men thought about killing these women and went ahead with their plans.
Five of the women were stalked and killed on their way to their farms. Three were killed while working at the farms. A woman was slain with a machete by her partner who claimed she was cheating. In five other cases, where the couples were separated, the men stalked the women and killed them. A woman was shot by her husband who accused her of cheating with her pastor who was also shot. A woman was killed after notifying the man she was pregnant. A woman was stabbed to death by her husband who had erectile dysfunction and accused her of sleeping with younger men. For a country flooded with such abuses of women, it is disheartening that there are no shelters for abused women. (Aussie Ghana Relief is trying to build Ghana’s first women’s shelter).
“I ended up having to go back home. That night, he insulted me and threatened to throw me out of the house with my kids. I was so scared, but there was nothing I could do, there was no place to go, so I stayed.” Ghana Web
Femicide is a crisis that demands action.
Societies must be conditioned to reject misogynist practices. Governments must set up structures that provide safe havens for women. Countries such as Ghana must be swift in establishing shelters for abused women. Governments must also restructure their criminal justice systems to assure women that they are safe in the hands of the law. Men must be re-educated on what constitutes manhood and how being born male does not mean they are a superior gender. They must be made to buy out of toxic patriarchal ideals. Men must be taught that females are not their subjects and women do not owe men anything. Societies must also be restructured to be ones that provide for equality. This can be done through women empowerment schemes that help girls and women break away from the constraints of patriarchy.
IF YOU NEED HELP CONTACT THE FOLLOWING FOR SUPPORT
+234 9461 6314
Women Aid Collective
080 526 55111
The Ark Foundation
+233 30 2 511 610
N.B: This organisation is still trying to re-open as it closed because of absence of funds but you can call them
+225 22 51 87 70/71
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
+243 811 911 066
+233 20 22 21 24