Domestic violence primary threat to women in post-war West Africa
22 May 2012 - Women in post-conflict West Africa continue to suffer violence at alarming levels and with shocking frequency, but the primary threat to their safety is not strangers or men with guns; it’s their husbands, according to the International Rescue Committee.
“Domestic violence is often considered a private matter, minimized as a cultural practice or seen as an issue that can be addressed only after peace and development take hold,” says IRC President George Rupp, who led the IRC’s Commission on Domestic Violence on a recent research trip to Liberia and Sierra Leone. “It is time to recognize domestic violence for what it is – a public health crisis that requires urgent attention and resources in humanitarian settings.”
The Most Common Form of Violence
Domestic violence also takes many forms, with physical assault the most common type of abuse reported to the IRC. The report cites accounts of beatings, marital rape, stabbings and burnings, including one woman who was locked in her home by her spouse as he set their house on fire. The report describes other less visible, but still insidious forms of abuse like the denial of food, medical care and money for basic necessities, as well as forced isolation, restricted access to friends and relatives, humiliation and threats of violence.
“Men in West Africa largely control household resources, including income earned by their wives,” says Heidi Lehmann, who directs the IRC’s global women’s protection and empowerment programs. “In abusive homes, requests for food and money are frequently met with violence.”
Afraid, Trapped, Isolated