The United Nations Fund for Women launched its campaign against gender-based violence in Africa today, which is also Pan-African Women’s Day.
Although reports of domestic violence are on the rise in Africa, it has yet to be recognized as a serious crime, according to women’s and human rights organizations. Despite laws against assault, men in countries such as Nigeria and Kenya are permitted to “correct” their wives with physical punishment under the “required limits” of the law, according to “Women of the World: Laws and Policies That Affect Their Reproductive Lives,” a report published by the Center for Reproductive Policy and the International Federation of Female Lawyers. “Beating a wife is a normal thing among the Maasai people and if a husband doesn’t do it occasionally, he gets ridiculed by his friends,” said a Maasai woman.
The campaign aims to increase public and media awareness about the problem, as well as to encourage women to report cases of abuse and to facilitate legal reforms. The United Nations Development Program is educating police about domestic violence.
One problem the UN may face is that those who assist victims of domestic violence are often criticized by church and community leaders for breaking up marriages.