By Aisha Tamba
Sexual and gender-based violence survivors have urged the government to establish a one-stop centre.
According to the survivors, the centre will be a safe place where SGBV survivors can visit to have their cases recorded and be provided with medical care, psychosocial support, shelter, legal counseling and aid, protection and criminal investigation.
The sexual and gender-based violence laws are currently being amended.
A 42-year-old woman, who was sexually assaulted and robbed said she had to travel to Senegal and undergo some medical treatment but did not receive any legal support. “I had to heal on my own and felt I could not talk about my experience for fear of being stigmatized. This is very unhealthy, so Gambia has to develop a center for women abused and traumatized. Also our health system is so poor and as a result of prior experiences at prominent facilities, I did not trust to be treated here. We have so much to do for Gambia to reach a status of good regulatory health systems and hospitals.”
“I have faith that eventually Gambia will reach the standard but with the level of corruption that exists amongst civil servants and political leaders, it seems like it will be a slow process.”
“We must speak up against the domestic abuse that has also increased during this Covid-19 pandemic. Many women are silently suffering as a result of domestic abuse from their husbands, boyfriends etc. We must be creating institutions, assist and speak out for these women,” she said.
The president of the Network of Girls Against Human trafficking, a survivor of human trafficking and an activist, said the government is not helping the survivors.
NOGAH was founded by the survivors of human trafficking with the mission to end human trafficking and sensitise communities.
“The Gambia government is not doing anything to help our organisation nor the survivors of human trafficking. Only when other international organisation intervene that is when they start to investigate in some of the matters and we are helping them. We will always help in their investigations. Personally I will continue to advocate and support government of The Gambia in their investigations because I see my people first,” she lamented.
Mother of a 17-year-old rape survivor said she is not aware that the government is providing any legal support to rape survivors.
“We only went to the hospital and the police station but none of them told us about any legal support from the government,” she said.
She explained that her daughter has not been herself since the incident. “Even though the perpetrator is caught and he is at the police but she still feels shy to go out because she is traumatized.”
Lamin Fatty, the national coordinator of Child Protection Alliance said providing psychosocial support for SGBV survivor is one of their greatest challenges as there are not many psychosocial specialists in the country. He also added that the system around the protection of young children in this country is nothing to be proud of.
The country coordinator of network of sexual and gander based violence, Fallu Sowe:
“What is lacking is the full enforcement of the law. We have the laws but sometimes enforcement of the law is a challenge for the government. According to the Domestic Violence Act, the government needs to provide funding established by law to support the survivors. But that has not been happening. We are advocating for that also to happen because the law was enacted since 2013. And since then no money was put in that fund to support survivors.”
While data are very limited on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the country, estimates suggested that SGBV is a major health, human rights and development issue in The Gambia.
It is deduced from the analysis of SGBV data in The Gambia that:
1.At national 41% of women age 15-49 have experienced physical violence at least once since age 15 (DHS 2013).
2.Majority of the victims of SGBV are children (over 75%).
3.Majority of the victims of SGBV are women and girls (over 90%).
4.The perpetrators of the SGBV are mostly persons who are related to the victims by blood married, shares or has shared the same residence with the victim, persons in authority within the homes and community.
5.Many SGBV cases are treated as private and negotiated at community level.
6.According to the admin data from NGBV sexual violence is on the rise for the past years particularly rape. Most women affected by intimate partner violence are pregnant women.
The Gambia has recently launched a helpline for swift gender-based violence queries where victims or witnesses of the act can report cases.