The Gambia continues to be plagued by the epidemic that is domestic violence against women and the numbers are not decreasing. According to the new Demographic and Health Survey in The Gambia, the percentage of women who have experienced physical violence since age 15 increased from 41 percent in 2013 to 46 percent in 2019-20.
Gender-based violence continues to be recognised worldwide as a violation of basic human rights. All Gambian women are entitled to their universal, indivisible, inalienable human rights. The continued rate of domestic violence against women strips them of these rights. The United Nations identifies any act of violence that results in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, girls, men, and boys as well as threats, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty as domestic violence (UN 2006). Domestic violence isn’t only a reality for married or widowed women, 37 percent of women that have never been married experience domestic violence.
In The Gambia, nine percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced sexual violence with higher rates in divorced, separated, and or widowed women. Additionally, a working Gambian women’s chances of facing domestic violence are 8 percent higher than a non-working woman, with 49 percent of working women experiencing domestic violence compared to 41 percent of unemployed women. Furthermore, the percentage of women in rural areas who have experienced domestic violence is higher than in urban areas.
Generational trauma may be one of the core sources of domestic violence in The Gambia because 51 percent of women and 35 percent of men agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of the following reasons: if she burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the children, or refuses to have sex with him. For more than 50 percent of women interviewed believe that this is okay means that these are principles taught and shown to women from an early age. All Gambians must break these cycles of normalising domestic violence against young Gambian women and especially men. Furthermore, 39 percent cited using contraceptives without his consent as a justification for wife-beating.
Another crippling aspect of domestic violence is that most women do not tell anyone or ask for help. Two-thirds (65 percent) of women who experience physical violence never sought help or told anyone. So many women are dealing with the horrors of being abused all of their own and one thing that is almost never talked about is their mental health. The emotional toll that abuse takes on Gambian women is extremely important and something that everyone in society needs to be educated on.
Teach your sons, cousins, friends, colleagues, and all-male figures in your life not to strip away women’s human rights. Let us break the glass ceiling. Let us break the generational curse that normalises all types of violence against women and check on Gambian women. Ask them how their mental health is and let us all unite in stopping domestic violence in The Gambia.