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[16days_discussion] Important News Release on VAW iN cAMEROON

Mr.Bamenda Organisation mr_bamenda at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 26 04:34:04 EDT 2011


Stand Up Against Brutal Murder of Film Actress by Boyfriend in Cameroon
Dountio Saadeo Relindis and Gwain Colbert Fulai
Co-Founders,
A Common Future, Cameroon
Working With Men to End Violence against Women


A rising female film actress in Bamenda, Cameroon,
Bibiche Carole was last July 07, 2011 brutally murdered in Yaounde, 
capital
city of Cameroon by the former boyfriend, Tamumbang Ronny, on flimsy 
grounds she was seeing someone else. Tamumbang Ronny fatally stabbed 
Bibiche
Carole in his home in Yaounde. Bibiche Carole who lives in Bamenda,
headquarters of the North West Region, had traveled to Yaounde to pick 
up a visa
for the United States of America. While in Yaounde, the young man lured 
Bibiche
to his home under the pretext they were going to talk about the child 
they had
earlier in their relation.

 
 The
murder which has been described by the press in Cameroon as “senseless and
unnecessary” comes to add to other acts of physical violence on women 
each
year. After tricking Bibiche into his private apartment, he tied her up, violated her sexually before stabbing her with a knife. Then
hurriedly arranged fith an accomplice cab driver to dump in a bush at 
the
outskirts of the city. A neighbor who had monitored the incident later
reported matter to the police who wasted no time in rounding him up.


 The
murder has had a devastating effect on Bibiche's family as well as on the 
safety and
security of women in Cameroon if nothing is done and urgently. This 
makes the
attainment of the MDGs in Cameroon
a far cry as no concerted actions are taken to redress such occurrences. The
young man ended Bibiche life for his own distorted and selfish ends. As 
she lives behind a three year old girl, Bibiche's death leaves the 
family in a terrible
struggle to endure after the murder. She was also the bread winner for 
the
family that lives on less than one dollar a day.

A Common
Future organization wants to make sure a serious charge is meted on the 
culprit,
not a downgraded one. Given that the murder was committed in broad day 
light in
the capital of Cameroon, we wish to lobby for a public hearing where the media
would cover. This follow-up is needed and urgent because if the court is not
seen to be monitored, it will be tempted to met out a lesser charge of 
“assault
occasioning death” when the real charge is murder. As Women Human Rights Defenders,
together with Gender Equality anad Development Network, GEADNET, and the Cameroon Lawyers for Human Rights, CLHR, we would follow-up
all stakeholders in the case, viz, the legal department, the examining
magistrate, the courts, and the prisons. We request the severest 
punishment for
the culprit as a deterrent to other men. Close follow-up of this 
horrendous
incident is needed so that it should not be hoodwinked by the culprit’s 
family
that is wealthy and rich and likely to use their influence to impress on the
judicial process. Given that the victim’s family is poor and living on 
less
than $1 a day, they would be unable to follow through complicated court
proceedings.


A 2007 shadow report submitted to the United Nations (UN) Committee 
on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was 
compiled by four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and coordinated 
by Women in Research and Action (WIRA), indicates that "[d]omestic 
violence in the form of physical assault is very rampant" in Cameroon 
(WIRA et al.  2007, 46). According to a demographic and health survey conducted by 
the Cameroon's National Institute for Statistics (Institut national de 
la statistique, INS), with technical assistance from Maryland-based ORC 
Macro, in 2004, 39 percent, 14 percent and 28 percent of the surveyed 
women who were in a relationship or who had been in a relationship had 
respectively experienced physical violence, sexual violence or emotional violence at the hands of their partner (INS and ORC Macro June 2005, 
251). The country profile accompanying the 2009 Social Institutions and 
Gender Index (SIGI) for Cameroon, which is published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), points out that while there is a lack of "reliable" statistics on the number of women 
affected by violence in the country, the number of media reports on such cases indicates that this phenomenon is "widespread" (OECD n.d. ). A poster that was presented at the International Conference on 
Population in 2009 states that the "persistent high rate of violence" 
against women in Cameroon can be partly explained by the fact that such 
violence may be "ignored or even accepted by the society" (Johnson Takwa 2009). Similarly, the shadow report submitted to CEDAW indicates that 
violence against women is "very prevalent but lacks recognition as a 
social problem due to the fact that it is sometimes invariably accepted 
as a way of life" (WIRA et al. 2007, 46).
Legislation
The United States (US) Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009 indicates that Cameroonian law does not "specifically prohibit domestic violence, although assault is prohibited and is punishable by prison terms and 
fines" (11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). A 
country sheet on Cameroon issued by the Country of Return Information 
Project (CRI Project), a project funded by the European Commission to 
focus on reintegration possibilities for potential returnees (CRI 
Project Nov. 2008, 1), also 
states that, according to an interview with the Executive Secretary of 
Cameroon Women in Leadership and Development (CAWOLED), there is no 
specific legislation that prohibits "[w]ife battering" in Cameroon 
(ibid., 7). In 31 March 2010 correspondence with the Research 
Directorate, the President of the Association to Fight Violence Against 
Women (Association de lutte contre les violences faites aux femmes, 
ALVF) in Yaounde, Cameroon, provided the following information:
Domestic violence is not recognised as a specific crime in Cameroon and we don't have a legal definition of domestic violence.
Cameroon does not have specific legislation by which domestic 
violence can be prosecuted; the criminal law is notoriously silent and 
victims are left to [rely] on the general law of assault. Thus, acts of 
domestic violence can be prosecuted using the Cameroon's penal code 
under the following articles:
	* Article 275 which punishes murder
	* Article 276 which punishes capital murder
	* Article 277 which punishes grievous harm
	* Article 278 which punishes assault occasioning death
	* Article 279 which punishes assault occasioning grievous harm
	* Article 280 which punishes simple harm.
	* Article 282 which punishes failure to assist women who have been abandoned by their spouses
	* Article 338 which punishes assault on woman with child whose aim is to protect pregnant women from assault.
Two sources indicate that spousal rape is not criminalized (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6; IPS 4 Nov.  2009). According to the Executive Secretary of CAWOLED, who is cited in the CRI Project country fact sheet, spousal rape is "generally" not 
considered an offence under customary law; it is rather understood that a married woman "consents to sexual intercourse with her husband at any 
time" ( Nov. 2008, 7). An Inter Press Service (IPS) article also notes the following:
Cameroon's penal code states that "[w]hoever by force or moral 
ascendancy compels any female, whether above or below the age of 
puberty, to have sexual intercourse with him shall be punished with 
imprisonment for from five to 10 years." 
It further makes it illegal for a man to have sex with a woman under 16 years of age even if she consents to such intercourse.
Despite these laws, few perpetrators of rape are ever prosecuted in Cameroon.
Section 297 of the penal code, for instance, prevents prosecution for rape when marriage has been freely consented to by the parties 
involved, as long as the woman assaulted is over the age of puberty at 
the time of the offence. (4 Nov. 2009)
Several sources note that spousal abuse is not a legal ground for 
divorce (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6; CRI Project Nov. 2008, 7; OECD n.d. ).
Law enforcement
The CRI Project country fact sheet indicates that, according to the 
Executive Secretary of CAWOLED, although victims of domestic violence 
can lodge a complaint under the assault provision of the penal code, a 
man is traditionally considered to have "disciplinary rights over his 
wife" and that legislation related to "assault on women" is not 
effectively enforced by the authorities ( Nov. 2008, 7). Two sources 
underline that domestic violence is perceived as a "private matter" (UN 4 Aug. 2010, 3; WIRA et al.  2007, 46). The shadow report submitted to CEDAW states that law 
enforcement officers do not consider domestic violence to be a serious 
issue and that victims are reluctant to report abuse (ibid., 45-46). The same report adds that law enforcement officers lack training on how to 
treat cases of domestic violence (ibid., 46). The President of the ALVF 
indicated that the police respond to allegations of domestic violence by conducting investigations into the allegations and, if valid, requiring the alleged perpetrators to appear in person to address the 
accusations; the alleged perpetrators will have to then "suffer the 
consequences" and make "resolutions" to cease the violence (ALVF 31 Mar. 2010). The ALVF President also explained that victims of domestic 
violence are not encouraged to report the violence to the authorities 
and that, when they do, it rarely results in charges against the alleged perpetrators as women often do not pursue their complaints (ibid.). 
"Few, if any" cases of domestic violence result in court proceedings 
(ibid.). The President added that proceedings never go as "far as 
convicting men" (ibid.). However, no corroborating information could be 
found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. 
Nevertheless, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) expressed concern that "only a small proportion of cases [of rapes] are reported and 
investigated" (4 Aug. 2010, 3). According to Country Reports for 2009, women's rights advocates contend that the penalties for domestic violence are inadequate (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6).
Protection and support services
The President of the ALVF stated that victims of domestic violence 
who go to police stations are offered counselling and advice within the 
police stations (ALVF 31 Mar. 
2010). Counselling and advice are also available to victims throughout 
Cameroon at social service centres provided by the Ministry of Social 
Affairs; social welfare services are available from the Ministry of 
Women's Empowerment and the Family (Ministire de la Promotion de la 
Femme et de la Famille, MINPROFF) (ibid.). However, the President of the ALVF noted that victims of domestic violence are frequently encouraged 
during counselling to return home without any action being taken to 
prevent a reoccurrence of the violence (ibid.). A report submitted by 
the CEDAW, which was prepared with input from a committee of government 
and civil society representatives, indicates that victims of domestic 
violence who are referred to the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and the Family are offered "health, financial, psychosocial and legal 
assistance" (UN 10 Nov. 2008, 
10). In contrast, in 31 March 2010 correspondence with the Research 
Directorate, the President of the ALVF stated that the government does 
not provide free legal aid to victims of violence. The CEDAW report also indicates that the MINPROFF maintains a hotline that "enables victims 
of violence or anyone with information on a case of violence to reach 
the Ministry's services at any time of the day or night" (UN 10 Nov.  2008, 11). The President of the ALVF indicated that the state operates 
hotlines but there are no shelters or safe houses "and that is why the 
word 'state protection' does not seem appropriate because we don't have 
any such protection" (ALVF 31 Mar. 
2010). The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) also states that the 
protection provided to women who are victims of domestic violence is 
"weak" (4 Aug. 2010, 3).
According to data available in the CEDAW report, between 2006 and 
October 2008, 3,680 cases of physical violence against women (including 
domestic violence) and 2,500 cases of psychological violence were 
recorded by the government's services (UN 10 Nov.  2008, 10). The report does not indicate how many of those cases 
resulted in prosecution or conviction. The report, however, acknowledges that "[s]ome forms of violence concern the victim’s intimate life and are therefore not always reported, which makes it difficult to compile 
statistical information" (ibid.). A report produced by Human Rights 
Watch and other NGOs also states that according to interviews conducted 
with national NGOs, including the ALVF, the number of cases of violence 
against women "usually goes underreported" (Human Rights Watch et al. Nov. 2010, 44).
As indicated in the CEDAW report, a cooperation agreement between 
three NGOs (African Women's Association [AWA], Women's Promotion and 
Assistance Association [WOPA] and Association Enfants, Femmes et Avenir 
[ASSEJA]) and the government was established to "ensure that all acts of violence and discrimination against women are reported and that the 
police force receives support in caring for and assisting in the 
reintegration of women victims of violence into society and their 
families" (UN 10 Nov. 2008, 11-12).
The ALVF and other organizations provide medical, psychosocial and 
legal services to victims of violence (ALVF 31 Mar. 2010). In addition, 
the ALVF provides "free legal counselling and advice" (ibid.).
The Cameroon Association of Female Jurists (Association camerounaise 
des femmes juristes, ACAFEJ) is a non-profit NGO located in Yaounde 
(ACAFEJ n.d. a). One of its objectives is to [translation] "fight and 
denounce all discrimination against women and children" (ibid. n.d. b). The ACAFEJ offers free legal counselling at three assistance centers 
located in Bafoussam, Douala and Yaounde; it also provides services in 
urban and rural areas through mobile clinics (ibid. n.d. c).
Women in Action Against Gender Based Violence is an organization 
located in the northwest region of Cameroon that "[m]ediate[s], 
counsel[s] and legally address[es] violence against women and girls" 
(GBV Prevention Network n.d. ).
The President of the ALVF noted that several NGOs operate hotlines 
for victims of domestic violence (ALVF 31 Mar.  2010). The CRI Project country fact sheet on Cameroon also indicates 
that there is a help-line program called "SOS Family" that is based in 
Douala ( Nov. 2008, 11).  The CRI Project country fact sheet also reports on an interview with an SOS 
Family representative, who indicated that SOS Family maintains a help 
desk that responds to "all kinds of problems affecting women or children with relation to any form of violence against them," 24 hours a day 
(CRI Project Nov. 2008, 11). Sessions with social workers are organized 
for those victims for whom no immediate solution is adequate (ibid.).
The President of the ALVF indicated that some women are hesitant to 
use the available social services or report domestic violence to the 
authorities due to family pressure, financial dependence on the 
perpetrator, a desire to keep family matters out of the public domain, a belief in the inadequacy of the services or recourses, previous 
experience with the services or recourses that proved unsatisfactory and threats from the perpetrator (ALVF 31 Mar.  2010). She added that the availability of support services to victims 
of domestic violence, although inadequate, nevertheless deters some men 
from acts of domestic violence, and may encourage some women to initiate legal action to obtain a divorce or a separation (ALVF 31 Mar. 2010).
 
Gwain Colbert Fulai 
P.O. Box 747 Mankon, Bamenda.
Tel (237)7852476
E-mail mr_bamenda at yahoo.com
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