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Cablegate: Fighting Domestic Violence in Senegal

VZCZCXRO9064
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0783/01 1850947
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030947Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0769
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 000783

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINR SCUL KJUS SG
SUBJECT: Fighting Domestic Violence in Senegal

1. (SBU) Summary: On June 27, 2008 the Committee to Combat Domestic
Violence against Women (CLVF) held its annual general assembly to
review and assess the situation of domestic violence in Senegal.
Participants, representing a wide swath of civil society groups,
NGOS and foreign missions, focused on issues such as rape, education
for young girls, domestic violence and the promotion of women in the
political, social and economic arena. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Committee to Fight Domestic Violence is a national
non-profit organization that was created in July 1996 following an
egregious domestic violence case that involved a woman who was
beaten by her husband over a 22-year period in Diourbel (200 km east
of Dakar). CLVF's objectives are: to stop domestic violence and
support female victims from all types of violence by reforming legal
processes used to identify cases of domestic violence; to assist
women to understand the social, medical, and legal implications of
domestic violence. Through its shelters, CLFV gives counseling and
educates victims' families, legal and health authorities such as the
police, hospitals, gendarmerie, and the courts about the
consequences of violence. They also develop modules on violence to
educate victims and the community on the problems of domestic
violence. A Democracy and Human Rights Funds (DHRF) grant assisted
CLFV to establish three new regional branches in Tambacounda,
Ziguinchor and Louga in order to help them to support their fight
against domestic violence in all its forms.


Stories from the Field-Tambcounda
---------------------------------

3. (SBU) CLVF's Tambacounda branch has developed many activities
including a workshop to train paralegals and a radio spots on rape
and sexual harassment in schools. As a result of this new
awareness, the rapist of a fourteen year old girl was sentenced to
two years in prison. In another case, a 15-year girl was raped by
her teacher and got pregnant. Her rapist was also sentenced to two
years in jail. A good reason why regional branches are important is
exemplified by an early marriage case where parents wanted to marry
off their ten-year old daughter thus forcing her to drop out of
school. However, the school director contacted CLVF and a committee
went to talk to the family about the dangers of having the girl drop
out of school. In this case the parents were won over by the
arguments of the CLVF representative and they finally allowed the
girl to continue her studies. Today she is in a prestigious
boarding school in Goree Island.

Stories from the Field-Louga
----------------------------

4. (SBU) CLVF Louga's local branch is headed by a woman who herself
was a victim of domestic violence and whose husband was sentenced to
jail for four years. In her speech she addressed the success of
CLVF in breaking the silence around domestic violence, and urged the
judiciary to do more in assisting victims. She highlighted multiple
problems facing women such as the fact that some guilty men get the
help of their "marabouts" and are thus not prosecuted or when the
abuser is a relative of the victim, whereupon a case is closed even
before police or gendarmerie are aware of the problem. Louga is a
region that has a high rate of migration with many divorced women
who had extramarital relations some of which sometimes results in
unwanted pregnancies. One of CLVF's modules is a family mediation
module that explains the dangers of men going abroad for a long time
and leaving their wives alone.

Stories from the Field-Ziguinchor
---------------------------------

4. (SBU) Because of the long conflict between the Senegalese Army
and the rebels from the Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de la
Casamance(MFDC), this region is characterized by high rates of
violence against females and where girls as young as ten years old
are regularly raped by both soldiers and rebels. Since its
inception in Ziguinchor, CLFV has provided a great deal of help and
assistance to victims through counseling and shelters. Yet,
Ziguinchor CLVF faces many of the challenges that other branches do
around the country. For example, in a recent domestic violence case
a wife's husband was sent to jail for two years instead of five
because the two parties are related. In addition to working on
domestic violence, CLVF is also conducting workshops to educate
local citizens about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation
(FGM).


Comment
-------

5. (SBU) One of the most important ways to measure the level of
domestic violence is by measuring the effectiveness of the
government and local NGOs in protecting and providing justice for
the most vulnerable victims. The encouraging news is that steps

DAKAR 00000783 002 OF 002


have been taken to address the issue and in most cases perpetrators
are serving prison sentences for their crimes. However, the most
difficult part of addressing domestic violence is to bring about a
change in cultural attitudes towards the problem. In many cases the
religious and cultural burdens of the resulting shame on a family is
an impediment to the reporting of abuse and CLVF wants to overcome
this by educating women about their rights. On they underline the
need for more shelters to host victims in order to give them proper
counseling and a neutral environment in which they can recover.
Furthermore, health workers, policemen and gendarmes must be
encouraged to do their work by providing medical certificates or
other proofs of abuse and facilitating victims' access to the
judicial system especially in providing financial means to victims
who can't afford lawyers.
SMITH

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