Thursday, August 11, 2011

Myriad rape shows collapse of Cameroon society. Corrupt judiciary, administrative bottleneck hinder justice

Rape, which is sometimes called sexual assault, is forced, unwanted sexual intercourse. It’s all about power, not sex and can happen to both men and women of any age. A rapist uses actual force or violence — or the threat of it — to take control over another human being. In some cases rapists use drugs to take away a person's ability to fight back. In effect rape is undoubtedly a crime, whether the person committing it is a stranger, a date, an acquaintance, or a family member.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla Originally Published on Yahoo news!

Make no mistake, if one gets sex from a woman with her consent but without her reasoned and informed opinion of the consequences, it constitutes rape or with her informed opinion without consent it is also rape. Thus, a man can rape his wife if he uses force to get sex when the woman does not want it. In so doing, Rape can attract more severe punishment when it is perpetrated by a ‘man of God’ or someone under whose care the victim is kept

Debates on rape often provoke laughter, and sorrow sometimes in the case of a victim. While women would argue that it is possible for a man to rape his wife, men say it is not possible for someone to steal what belongs to him. On the other hand, some male folks would lament that more women are increasingly using force to get sex from men and that more men are placed at a weaker position in so far as negotiating for sex is concerned. Shockingly, most of victims of rape in Cameroon are below 15 years, and the act is usually committed by persons from all backgrounds including; fathers, ‘men of God’, friends, relatives, bandits, rich or poor as well as in rural and urban settings alike.

But for some reason(s), the seriousness of rape and its damaging consequences are sometimes better understood only after people come across victims or when victims take to the rostrum to tell their awesome stories.

While working as a community organizer in the rural parts of South West Province (Region) in the Republic of Cameroon, I facilitated several workshops including those aimed at educating traditional rulers, women, journalists, civil society actors, young girls and boys and rape victims on the damaging consequences of rape on the society especially if unchecked

In narrating her ordeal in course of one of my workshops, a victim - Missodi, aged 30 tells how two of her brother-in-laws had brutally raped her. That after the death of her husband, she refused to be handed over to her brother-in-law as a wife as custom demands. But little did she know that her refusal to honor tradition only made her a target for rape. On that fateful day, Missodi said she had just lowered her pant to urinate when two of her brother-in-laws jumped on her from behind, put soil into her mouth then raped her.
Namolongo, another victim told of how she was hawking foodstuff at the age of 11, when she was raped. That she had heard the village masqueraders fondly called ‘jujus’ singing and dancing towards her direction. As she hides herself in the shrub to avoid eye contact with the ‘juju’ as tradition demands, one of them rush to her and assaulted. Unfortunately her mother was only interested in the items she was hawking upon hearing the awesome incident. Neille’s story was that of incest perpetrated by her father. In tears she told how her father had repeatedly raped her in the house, in abandoned buildings, in the bathroom and even on the farm. She was just 11 when it all started. It all got to the limelight only after she became pregnant at 16. Before that, she had sought refuge in a local Pentecostal church hoping to find a way to reveal the ordeal. But the ‘men of God’ were no different from her pedophile father, as they too began asking for their own ‘share’. She ran away.
Annabenga, told of how at 8, her mother used to leave her with her 25-year-old cousin to go for business. But one unfortunate day, the cousin brought in pornographic films and asked that they practice what they were seeing. It happened then and several other times.

In a related story a man narrated how he decided to divorce his wife after she was raped by bandits. He claimed the bandits tied him up on a chair at gunpoint while his wife was raped before his own very eyes. However, that the reason to divorce the wife was not due to the rape, but rather that the wife was screaming and enjoying the sexual act from the bandits (something he could not tolerate) instead of crying and shouting. Several other testimonies of forced sex in different circumstances were presented to the participants in course of the workshop

The military in this country are not helping the situation. They would stop at nothing in raping women especially during crises. A case in point was during armed attacks in North West region of Cameroon in March 1997, where hundreds of people, predominantly members of opposition political parties were arrested. “Civilians were beaten, kicked and humiliated and many incidents of rape were reported”, states Amnesty International (AI), in its 1998 annual report. “A special security unit, known as the COMMANDEMENT OPÉRATIONNEL (CO), the Operational Command, was set up to combat street crime in Douala and Yaoundé, the capital. It was reportedly responsible for killing scores of criminal suspects, as well as for carrying out beatings, rapes and other ill-treatment of detainees”, AI stated further in its 2001 annual report

Just like the military, the police and gendarme are noted for raping students when called to quell uprising on campus. Cases of rape on campus had been reported in various universities and school of learning in Cameroon including the university of Buea, Douala, and Yaounde

Different reports hold that rape has risen from 0 percent to affect 5 percent of women in Cameroon, between 1970 and 2010, prompting a nationwide campaign against this monster

And like in one voice participants at this crowd-pulling workshops all stood up to denounce ‘rapists’ and challenged the government of Cameroon to make every efforts to bringing rapists to face justice.
Whatever the case, rape is already a public health problem in Cameroon and constitutes one of the worst forms of violence against women and girls here. The German Technological Research (GTZ) Cameroon, reported 432,000 rape cases from the country’s ten regions recently. Though persons guilty of rape here can be imprisoned for up to 10 years, only 5 percent of perpetrators of this heinous act consider one of the worst degrading act against women were punished1970 and 2010. And the inability to bringing all those involved to face justice is due to high level corruption in the country’s judiciary coupled with administrative bottlenecks among many others issues related to bad governance. These and many other reasons make procedures for getting legal redress here too cumbersome and lengthy, essentially because of the need for preliminary investigations, from the police and hospital to the legal department, before getting to court. And in the course of these lengthy procedures, most victims encounter lots of interventions and negotiations whereby the case is stopped or withdrawn before justice is rendered notes a joint report by GTZ and a local Non-Governmental Organization in Cameroon.

No matter how it happened, rape is frightening and traumatizing. And people who have been raped need care, comfort, and a way to heal.

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