Cablegate: Embassy Niamey Confronts Gender-Based Violence in Niger

DE RUEHNM #1167/01 3530622
R 180622Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Embassy Niamey Confronts Gender-Based Violence in Niger

REF: STATE 104830

NIAMEY 00001167 001.2 OF 002

1. SUMMARY: Between November 26 - December 10, 2008, Embassy Niamey
took advantage of the U.N.-sponsored "16 Days of Activism Against
Gender-based Violence" (reftel) to raise awareness successfully on
issues of domestic violence and women's rights in Niger. Niamey's
Public Affairs Section (PAS) sponsored a series of activities that
addressed problems associated and potential solutions to
gender-based violence issues from various perspectives, including:
legal, societal, religious, and human rights. The events were
highly successful, were well-attended by key audiences, and received
uniformly positive media coverage. END SUMMARY.

2. On November 26, 2008, Embassy Niamey sponsored an International
Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women speaker
presentation at the American Cultural Center (ACC), featuring Ms.
Moussa Satou of the Nigerien Association of Female Jurists (AFJN)
and Ms. Mariama Moussa of women's rights NGO Women and Children
Victims of Domestic Violence (FEEVVF). Ambassador Allen delivered
opening remarks, which reinforced U.S. and international concern
related to issues of gender-based violence, and reaffirmed the
Mission's commitment to support local entities in addressing it.
Ms. Satou's presentation dealt with issues related to domestic
violence, in particular, violence against women, within Niger's
legal framework. Ms. Moussa spoke about the civil society response
to issues related to spousal and child abuse in Niger. Despite
competing events offered by other local and international
organizations on this same theme, the ACC event was well attended
with over 40 participants, including the Secretary General of the
Ministry of the Promotion of Women and Protection of Children,
parliamentarians, jurists, and representatives of all major Nigerien
women's organizations. The question and answer session that
followed the formal presentation was so substantive and animated
that Ambassador Allen extended the event for an additional 30
minutes past its planned conclusion. The presentation received
considerable and positive media coverage, with extensive reporting
by public and private TV, radio, and print press.

3. On December 4, 2008, PAS Niamey hosted a second event at the ACC,
which addressed issues of gender-based violence and women's rights
from a religious perspective. Respected Muslim cleric and
International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alumnus Cheikh
Harouna Fodi's presentation dealt with the protection of women and
women's rights within the context of the Islamic faith. Cheikh Fodi
gave a detailed account of the importance that Islam bestows upon
women and their contribution to society. He cited several Koranic
verses stating that men and women are complementary, are to be
afforded the same rights and considerations, and that only their
efforts should distinguish them in terms of merit. Islam grants
women specific protections and support for their material needs.
The speaker lamented that negative attitudes of some Muslims towards
women contribute to misperceptions about Islam, which in reality
extends rights and protections to all, including to non-Muslims.

4. In the lively debate that followed, representatives of various
women's associations provided examples of continuing instances of
violence against women and children, and urged Niger's religious
leadership to work to raise awareness among the general population
and to improve respect for women's rights in accordance with Islamic
tenets. This program also exceeded its allotted time to allow for
expanded audience participation. Guests included Ambassador Allen,
who again gave the opening address, the Secretary General of the
Ministry of Religious Affairs, Islamic association leaders, and
representatives of women's rights groups and NGOs. Media reports
were copious and laudatory, with substantive pieces on public and
private TV, radio, and several major newspapers.

5. On December 10, 2008, Embassy Niamey concluded its "16 Days of
Activism" by co-sponsoring an International Human Rights Day program
with the Nigerian National Association for the Defense of Human
Rights (ANDDH) under the title, "Challenges of the Independence of
the Magistrature in Niger." This event marked the 60th anniversary
of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and
included presentations by the dean of investigating judges Saadou
Aladaoua, who talked about the limits (financial and institutional)
and obstacles hindering the independence of the judicial system. He
stated that prompt and consistent enforcement of justice is a major
problem faced by the judiciary, although progress is being made
recently in prosecuting dormant high-profile cases, which has
involved the imprisonment of some, and dismissal of charges against
others. A question and answer period followed the presentation,
which drew strong attendance, particularly from representatives of
non-governmental organizations concerned with human rights.

6. Note: Embassy Niamey does not have DVC capability, hence post
was unable to implement the DVC program suggested in para 5 of

NIAMEY 00001167 002.2 OF 002

7. Context of Gender-Based Violence in Niger: per reftel request,
post offers the following information:

-- Specific activities undertaken by posts to celebrate the 2008
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women -
detailed above;

-- Specific activities undertaken by posts during the 2008 UN 16
Days of Activism Campaign against Gender-based Violence - detailed

-- Any notable legislation recently passed in the host country on
the topic of gender-based violence - none;

-- Description of gender-based violence (and its different forms)
most prevalent in host country - the following section from the 2007
Human Rights Report for Niger is offered as depicting the situation

"Domestic violence against women was widespread, although reliable
statistics were not available. Husbands commonly beat their wives.
The law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence; however, a
woman can sue her husband or lodge criminal charges for battery,
penalties for which ranged from two months in prison and a 10,000
CFA ($20) fine to 30 years' imprisonment. The government tried with
limited success to enforce these laws. No data were available on
how many abusers were prosecuted or convicted during the year.
Charges stemming from family disputes were often dropped in favor of
traditional dispute resolution mechanisms. While women have the
right to seek redress for violence in the customary or modern
courts, few did so due to ignorance of the legal system and fear of
repudiation or social stigma. According to the UN Children's Fund
(UNICEF), 429 cases of violence against women were reported from
October 2006 through September 2007. Battery represented 44.9
percent of the cases, indecent assault 17.6 percent, and rape or
attempted rape 16.4 percent."; and

-- Description of public awareness campaigns or other novel efforts
that have made an impact on this issue - detailed above.


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