Under a huge baobab tree in Sudan’s Nuba mountains, I met Sebila, a 27-year-old mother of three. In March last year, her village had been attacked by Sudanese ground troops and bombed by government war planes. The assault forced Sebila and many other villagers to flee deeper into rebel-held territory.

She was just back in the village for the day with her children, two toddlers in tow and carrying a baby, to dig up sorghum she had buried. Sebila said food here is scarcer than it has been for years, because of poor rains and conflict fighting. “It’s exhausting, trying to feed them all [my family],” Sebila said of her children.

Aid obstruction in the rebel-held territories of Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile has been in force for nearly six years, and has had a devastating impact on the communities here. For Sebila – and all the women living across these territories – it has meant no access to contraception. “Every year, I give birth,” she told me. “It would be better if I could space it [out].” But Sebila cannot space her babies out, or have any control of her body. Like all women living in rebel-held territory here, she has zero access to contraception.

 In the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, access to family planning and maternal healthcare is severely limited by blocks on humanitarian supplies.

© Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

It has also meant a severe lack of maternal healthcare. There is no local midwife, and Sebila lives five hours’ drive from a hospital, in a region where cars are a rare luxury. Women told me of waiting hours for transport while in obstructed labour, or being held propped up, bleeding and falling in and out of consciousness, between two men on the back of a motorcycle to reach a hospital. Multiple and closely-spaced births can carry serious health risks for both mother and infant, and can be life-threatening without proper treatment.

Yet there is no coordinated international aid effort under way in the Nuba mountains. Funds are in place, but both the government and the rebel group are preventing supplies getting in. The conflict has left already-stretched health services in the region in a pitiful state. Most facilities are little more than a table with some basic medicines, and there are only five doctors and one blood bank for perhaps close to a million people.

Despite many rounds of peace talks since fighting began in 2011, the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North have failed to agree on how to allow aid – needs-based and impartially delivered – into the affected areas. Instead they are still arguing about whether aid can come through a third country, or, as the government insists, only from inside Sudan. Some aid groups have found ways to provide occasional help, unauthorised by the government but supported by the rebels, but this is no substitute for the large-scale effort needed. 

This has very serious consequences for reproductive health. None of the women I met in the Nuba mountains had any access to family planning. One clinic provides a three-month injectable contraception, but local rebel regulations require women to get their husband’s permission first. Despite evidence that gonorrhoea and syphilis are on the rise and hepatitis B common, condoms are scarce. Most of the women I met had never seen a condom, let alone any other form of contraception.

It is also feared that the number of women and girls dying in childbirth in the rebel-held areas of Southern Kordofan – already much higher than other states in Sudan – is rising yet further. And two major aid efforts, including a UN polio vaccination campaign for children, have failed.

Sudan has a long history of aid obstruction going back to the start of the conflict: denying travel permits; rejecting visas; blocking work permits; and expelling aid workers. Meanwhile, citing mistrust of the government, the rebels have still not agreed to an offer by the US to provide aid via Khartoum, and have instead called for yet more negotiations. 

Although aid saves lives, and warring parties in conflict have an obligation to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians, preventing it from reaching people is rarely punished. The UN security council briefly threatened punitive action against Sudan in 2012, but never acted. The health crisis unfolding in the Nuba mountains should prompt a change of tack. The UN security council, the African Union and the EU should investigate and consider travel bans and asset freezes on rebel and government leaders found to have deliberately blocked such deliveries. 

International aid is often a lifeline to civilians trapped in conflict. And it would help women like Sebila to access contraception, avoid risky childbirth, and feed their children.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Sarah Jamal Ahmed, a 24-year-old sociologist who was one of the activists during the 2011 uprising in Sanaa, stands by posters of dead protesters posted in the streets.

© 2012 Panos/Abbie Trayler-Smith

The revolution made us proud to be there on the front line and men were forced to accept us. But now there are some who think it is time for women to go home.

—Salwa Bughaighis, lawyer and human rights activist, Benghazi, Libya, July 2012[i]

In 2011, women were at the forefront as the Arab Spring erupted in Libya, organizing and demanding their rights to have a voice in their country’s future. The ensuing civil war resulted in the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi being toppled.  In the transitional period following that armed conflict women organized as voters and candidates in preparation for elections, documented human rights abuses, and worked to ensure any new constitution would enshrine women’s rights.

The revolution made us proud to be there on the front line and men were forced to accept us. But now there are some who think it is time for women to go home.

Salwa Bughaighis

Lawyer and human rights activist, Benghazi, Libya, July 2012

Iman and Salwa Bughaighis—sisters and human rights activists—were among the key organizers of the first demonstrations against Gaddafi in Benghazi in February 2011. “The revolution was an earthquake to the cultural status of women in Libya,” Iman told Human Rights Watch.

But the space for women’s political participation soon began to shrink. As the wrangling intensified over power and the future of Libya, women found themselves facing significant obstacles to their full participation in the country’s transitional processes, and even targeted for violence. On June 25, 2014, following threats, unidentified gunmen murdered Salwa Bughaighis in her home in Benghazi. One month later, on July 17, unidentified assailants shot dead Fariha al-Barkawi, a former lawmaker, in the eastern city of Derna.[ii] Both crimes are among hundreds of apparently politically motivated killings in post-Gaddafi Libya that remain uninvestigated and unprosecuted.

On the eve of Libya’s first democratic national election, Haja Nowara held a vigil in the square outside the courthouse in Benghazi, where she had spent many evenings supporting the revolution since early 2011. “I have waited my whole life for tomorrow, which will be a new day for Libya,” said Nowara, who would be voting for the first time in her life. “We sacrificed a lot to get here.”

© 2012 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

In its treatment of women and girls in wartime and in the post-war transition, Libya is sadly unexceptional.  Throughout history, women and girls have often been targeted in wartime for violence, especially sexual violence.  And they have also been denied the ability to participate in conflict prevention and post-conflict resolution efforts. Governments and non-state armed groups did not pay attention to the use of rape as a weapon of war, nor to the exclusion of women from crucial decision-making on conflict resolution and prevention, until women themselves mobilized for recognition and action.

This document sets out the commitments that the international community has since made to women and girls affected by armed conflict and outlines the major disappointments and gaps in implementation in three distinct but interconnected areas: participation; protection and assistance; and accountability. It also makes recommendations to governments, to all parties to armed conflicts, and to the UN on how to turn the promises made to women and girls in these three areas into reality.

Security Council Resolution 1325

After sustained advocacy efforts from women’s civil society organizations, the United Nations Security Council, in 2000, adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.[iii] It was the Security Council’s first dedicated resolution that recognized the specific risks to and experiences of women in armed conflict and women’s central role in maintaining international peace and security. Resolution 1325 elucidated states’ obligations to women and girls in situations of armed conflict, including ensuring that women are involved in all aspects of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict rebuilding. As broadly understood, the women, peace and security agenda acknowledges the linkages between participation, protection and assistance, and accountability, and the centrality of these issues to broader human rights concerns.

Angelina, 20, from Koch county, was spared in May when members of government aligned militia abducted three women and a teenage girl who she was hiding with. “When I fled [my village], I felt very tired and I sometimes would fall and have to use my arms to pull myself forward on the ground,” said the 20-year-old who has a physical disability. “I arrived [at the UNMI SS camp] three weeks after the attack. My whole body was swollen.” 

© 2015 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

This groundbreaking resolution and the subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security elaborate the responsibilities of all parties to ensure the meaningful “participation of women in all levels of decision-making” in institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of armed conflict, calling on all actors in peace talks to increase women’s participation in negotiations, and to ensure women’s rights are addressed in peace agreements.[iv] The resolutions remind all parties to armed conflicts of their obligations under international law, particularly civilian protection in armed conflicts, and call for states to end impunity for crimes of gender-based violence in armed conflicts. They urge the UN and governments to take steps to increase the number of women throughout the justice sector, and in armed forces. In these resolutions, the Security Council also states its intention to ensure it incorporates women, peace and security in its own work, including through consulting with civil society.

The resolution has given women around the world increased attention and legitimacy in their work in areas of armed conflict. Since the resolution’s adoption in 2000, many governments have begun to recognize that women’s roles in peace processes are not negotiable add-ons, but fundamental to sustainable and implementable peace accords. Security Council resolutions and commitments by UN member states have recognized conflict-related sexual violence as a tactic often ruthlessly deployed in war, and have expanded international prevention and response efforts. Governments and international bodies have introduced new policy frameworks, including additional Security Council resolutions, on women, peace and security at the national, regional, and multilateral levels. The UN is starting to collect data on a range of protection and participation aspects—from sexual violence in armed conflicts to women in peace talks—allowing policymakers and program implementers to begin to track where there has been success and where problems persist.

Much Work Remains

The remaining challenges are many. There is a lack of concerted, high-level leadership willing to spend political capital at key policy moments, such as in Security Council negotiations and in peace talks. There is insufficient and irregular funding, particularly for grassroots organizations working on women’s local-level peacebuilding and service provision.[v] Despite the improvement in data collection, there remains a lack of timely and disaggregated information for policymakers on women and girls in crisis situations, accompanied by a lack of analysis and recommendations for policymakers on appropriate action to take.[vi] Despite the heightened risk of violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and women with disabilities in situations of armed conflict, specific measures for them are rarely incorporated into policy and programming, often leaving these populations out of decision-making processes and unable to access services.

Sexual violence during Nepal’s 10 year conflict between Maoists and government forces has remained largely undisclosed. 

©2014 Arantxa Cedillo for Human Rights Watch

The UN Security Council, despite six subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security, often fails to bring these issues into its work on crisis situations. Despite the Security Council members’ meeting with women civil society representatives on its 2013 visit to the Great Lakes region, the subsequent report on the mission contained no substantive analysis or recommendations on women’s rights and concerns.[vii] Briefings from senior UN officials often lack specific information on women’s rights violations, on the inclusion of women in peacemaking efforts, and on the levels of women’s participation in security reform. Use of sanctions and other tools at the Security Council’s disposal are similarly haphazardly applied with respect to women, peace and security.[viii]  The Security Council rarely takes advantage of information on perpetrators to hold them to account and prevent future violations. For example, despite evidence of widespread crimes of sexual violence committed by Sudanese forces in Tabit in Darfur in 2014, the Security Council has not adopted a strong response.[ix] 

With women’s rights high on their rhetorical agenda, practical support among donor countries lags. It is rare, for example, that donors make women’s rights and women’s participation in decision-making a priority in political engagement with conflict-affected countries. Too often, including in countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia, officials assert it is not the right time to push for women’s rights, that security is somehow a prerequisite for women’s rights rather than inextricably linked with them, or that they do not have the leverage to act.[x]

For women and girls living in situations of armed conflict, participation, protection and assistance, and accountability for gender-based crimes remain a distant promise. As detailed in the following sections, it will take strong action backed by persistent political will for the potential of the women, peace and security agenda to be realized.

Nigerian girls in a refugee camp near Lake Chad in Chad. 

© 2015 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Participation

When Afghan women were asked their definition of security, we used the word “amnyat wa masuniat,” by which we mean a comprehensive feeling of safety when engaged in daily public and social life. The success of peace agreements must be gauged by real, measurable security improvements for women and for all members of the community, not just that a peace agreement has been signed. Excellencies, peace is a process, not an event. We look to you as Member States, including members of the Security Council, to ensure that women are consistently appointed as mediators and negotiators, and that our rights are fundamental to peace processes and outcomes.

—Statement by Orzala Ashraf Nemat, Afghan civil society representative and women’s rights advocate, delivered in the UN Security Council on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, New York, October 28, 2011[xi]

Despite years of rhetoric on the importance of women’s participation in Afghanistan peace processes, no women have been included in over 20 known rounds of informal talks between the international community and the Taliban. In talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, women were present on two occasions.[xii] In most situations of armed conflict and post-conflict, women have few channels and face formidable obstacles to participating in conflict prevention, conflict-resolution, and political processes such as elections and constitutional reform.

The success of peace agreements must be gauged by real, measurable security improvements for women and for all members of the community, not just that a peace agreement has been signed. Excellencies, peace is a process, not an event. We look to you as Member States, including members of the Security Council, to ensure that women are consistently appointed as mediators and negotiators, and that our rights are fundamental to peace processes and outcomes.

Statement by Orzala Ashraf Nemat

Afghan civil society representative and women’s rights advocate, delivered in the UN Security Council on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, New York, October 28, 2011

Women have little representation in formal peace talks. Available UN and academic data show that women are rarely present in these negotiations, and specific rights and concerns of women and girls are rarely reflected in peace agreements. One study of peace processes from 1992-2011 shows that only 4 percent of signatories to peace agreements have been women, and only 18 out of 300 peace agreements signed between 1998 and 2008 addressed any aspect of women’s rights and concerns.[xiii] Women struggle to have their voices heard, but examples of greater women’s involvement are gradually increasing. In Colombia, for example, women are present as permanent members of the negotiation delegation, and a sub-committee on gender in the negotiations was established in 2014, and women’s rights are discussed in the substantive talks. This happened after concerted pressure from civil society organizations, supported by UN Women.[xiv] Despite these gains, however, women’s civil society organizations have not been afforded a formal role in the Colombia negotiations.

Those facilitating formal peace talks often fail to recognize women’s work in community-level peace efforts.  When the opportunity to engage in formal peace talks arose in the 2014 Geneva II talks, Syrian women mobilized. With support from international nongovernmental organizations, UN member states, and the UN, women met behind closed doors with the Security Council, held consultative meetings to draft consolidated demands, and worked with women peacemakers from Ireland, Guatemala, and Bosnia-Herzegovina on strategies for engaging in the peace process.[xv] But when they met with the UN special envoy to Syria, Lakdhar Brahimi, he did not stay to hear their concerns and recommendations. “Mr. Brahimi, we are already building peace in Syria,” the women said, although Brahimi, effectively the chief mediator of Syria’s peace process, had already left the meeting. “We can help you if you let us.”[xvi]  Brahimi’s successor, Staffan de Mistura, has consulted with Syrian women’s groups, despite the stalling of the formal peace process.

Two activists working with the Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation (WADI), a German-Iraqi human rights group supporting Yezidi women and girls who escaped ISIS. WADI has three mobile units that visit women and girls in camps and settlements. It is seeking funds to build a center for training courses and social activities.

©2015 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Women should have seats at all decision-making tables, and women’s rights and concerns should be included in the outcomes of conflict negotiations. For example, women's rights should be reflected in humanitarian access agreements, human rights agreements, ceasefires, ceasefire monitoring, and in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) efforts agreed to by parties to a conflict. They should also be integrated throughout security sector reforms, including the vetting of armed and security forces, justice, reparations, and in relief and recovery programs.[xvii] Women’s participation is also the key to ensuring their protection and minimizing risks in displacement settings. This includes in the design of refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) camps so that women and girls are not placed at further risk in those settings.[xviii] Targeted efforts need to be made to ensure that the diversity of women’s perspectives is reflected in all aspects of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. For example, women with disabilities face unique challenges and can share their problem-solving approaches in conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.

Women human rights defenders often face risks, particularly in times of armed conflict. Even when women can legally conduct their work, they may face physical assault, sexual violence, and threats far greater than their male counterparts. Human Rights Watch has documented physical attacks, death threats, threatening phone calls, sexual harassment and assault, rape, and threats against children of activists in armed conflicts, all of which can create a chilling environment in an effort to silence these women.[xix] In the 2015 Sudan elections, for example, National Intelligence and Security Service officers arrested Dr. Sandra Kadouda, a prominent political and human rights activist, on April 12 as she drove to an anti-elections event at the National Umma Party headquarters in Omdurman. The authorities held her for three days at an unknown location, and then freed her on April 15, visibly bruised and with injuries to her shoulder, credible sources reported.[xx]

Women should also have the opportunity to participate in security forces without facing discrimination or harassment.  Women often are subject to hostile work environments that dissuade them from staying in or even joining police and military services. In Afghanistan, for example, despite efforts to increase their numbers, women have remained about 1 percent of the Afghan police over the last several years.[xxi] In addition to a lack of the most basic toilet and changing room facilities, women in the Afghan police face abuse and sometimes assault, including sexual assault, by male colleagues. Despite multiple reports of such incidents, these crimes often go unpunished, and government officials, including the minister of interior, have denied that abuses against women officers are a problem.[xxii]

Recommendations to Governments, Parties to Armed Conflict, UN agencies, and the UN Secretariat

  1. Implement national-level policies, including National Action Plans, on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, to ensure the full and meaningful participation of women in all peace and security discussions, including in all peace processes and transitional justice mechanisms. All parties involved in peace negotiations, including mediators and facilitators, should act to ensure women’s rights and concerns are a priority in negotiations and are integrated throughout any agreement. All discussions should benefit from the full engagement of civil society organizations, including women’s rights groups, women from marginalized populations, such as ethnic and religious minorities, and women with disabilities.
     
  2. Safeguard women’s security and support women’s participation in post-conflict elections, referendums and constitutional drafting, and reform processes. This includes promotion and protection of women candidates, voters, election workers, and women’s human rights defenders.
     
  3. Protect women’s human rights defenders. Governments should monitor threats and attacks against women's human rights defenders and provide protection as requested in a manner that allows them to continue their work.
     
  4. Strengthen recruitment and retention strategies for women in the security sector, including by addressing cultural and practical barriers that women face, by providing specific training and facilities, and ensuring women have equal opportunities for responsibility and advancement.
  5. Ensure women’s leadership and protection in displacement settings. Encourage and facilitate women’s representation in the leadership of camps and centers for the internally displaced and refugees. UN agencies should consult with women and girls, including those with disabilities, to ensure camp designs are accessible, safe, disability-inclusive, and provide equal access to food distributions, sanitation facilities, health—as well as reproductive health—services, education, and vocational training for women and girls.

A female election worker helps an elderly voter at a polling station in Benghazi. The electoral law rightly allowed people with “special needs” to bring assistants. However, barriers remain to ensure the right to political participation for women and men with disabilities.

© 2012 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Protection and Assistance

The government should give us proper shelter with a fence and an entrance. Police should secure the camp and manage who comes and goes. The worst thing is that the rapes push us into poverty because afterward we cannot do the same work or carry heavy loads. We need money for our kids to live. The government should do something or kids will die of hunger.

—Farxiyo, who was raped in an IDP camp, Mogadishu, Somalia, August 2013[xxiii]

No one has offered me one-on-one counselling of any kind. I’d be interested in receiving professional counseling to help me process my experiences if it was available.… I have trouble sleeping at night, and only sleep a few hours at a time. When I sleep, I often see my parents and siblings in front of my eyes, especially the image of my brothers being forced to kneel on the road, and my mother’s face.

—Narin (pseudonym), 20-year-old woman from Sinjar who escaped captivity and sexual abuse by ISIS fighters, Dohuk, Iraq, January 2015[xxiv]

In armed conflicts around the globe, combatants frequently target women and girls for abuse. National armies and non-state armed groups use sexual violence as a tactic in war in violation of international law.  Conflict-related sexual violence can include rape, abduction, forced prostitution, forced marriage, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy. 

Women and girls face multiple abuses in war, in addition to conflict-related sexual violence, including: forced displacement; the targeting and punishment of women because of their own activism or activism by male relatives; the drive towards early, forced, and child marriages because of instability and a lack of security for girls and younger women; an increase in domestic violence and sexual violence committed by civilians; lack of access to food, shelter, and health care; the interruption of education; and sexual exploitation and trafficking, to name but a few.

The government should give us proper shelter with a fence and an entrance. Police should secure the camp and manage who comes and goes. The worst thing is that the rapes push us into poverty because afterward we cannot do the same work or carry heavy loads. We need money for our kids to live. The government should do something or kids will die of hunger.

Farxiyo, who was raped in an IDP camp, Mogadishu, Somalia, August 2013

For example, Human Rights Watch has documented the abuse faced by Syrian women activists and other civilians.[xxv] Some of these women have long histories of activism while others began participating politically only after the beginning of uprisings against the Syrian government. Some were targeted or arbitrarily detained for their work, such as Jelnar, who used her pharmaceutical credentials to smuggle medications between neighborhoods. Several of them experienced torture, sexual assault, physical abuse, or harassment as a direct result of their activism, like Layal, who was detained by government forces for assisting the internally displaced. Others became household heads following their husbands’ detention or death, such as Zeinab, who lost her husband and son in separate incidents at the hands of government forces.

In Sudan’s ongoing armed conflicts, Sudanese government forces and allied militias have committed rape and other sexual violence against women and girls on numerous instances. For example, Sudanese military forces engaged in the mass rape of more than 200 women and girls in the town of Tabit, Darfur, in late 2014, restricted access to the town for UN and international investigators, peacekeepers, and humanitarian agencies, and threatened residents with reprisals if they spoke about their ordeals. Government authorities fostered a climate of fear in Tabit that deterred many women and girls from seeking medical care at clinics and hospitals.[xxvi]  

Adequate protection measures are vital to ensuring the safety of women and girls, but when attacks do happen, service provision is vital for survivors. In Nigeria, numerous victims and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the lack of security force presence in areas particularly vulnerable to attack by Boko Haram, notably in towns and villages in Borno State. Victims, witnesses, community leaders, and analysts told Human Rights Watch that government security services could have done more to prevent attacks by ensuring the adequate presence and arming of military personnel, and by responding more quickly and effectively to reports of attacks once in progress. Survivors of Boko Haram attacks received virtually no necessary psychosocial and medical services, and none of the rape survivors interviewed by Human Rights Watch had any information about how and where to access post-rape care.[xxvii]

Manal Ameer, 33, pictured here with her two daughters, was among the first to vote in Benghazi. She said she had learned about the election process through television advertising and had researched candidates via the Internet.

© 2012 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

In northern Iraq, the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has carried out systematic rape and other sexual violence against Yezidi women and girls since August 2014. Human Rights Watch documented a system of mass abduction, organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery, and forced marriage by ISIS forces.[xxviii] Many of the women and girls remain missing, but survivors who escaped to the Kurdish Region of Iraq need psychosocial support and basic humanitarian assistance. These survivors require specialized and expert psychosocial services in their present locations to aid their recovery and their reintegration into their communities. Few have received these.

Women and girls in displaced populations are at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence, and of becoming victims of sex and labor trafficking.[xxix] Humanitarian crises often mean that women and girls are placed at greater risk of violence, with specific measures such as camp design and humanitarian relief necessary. Human Rights Watch research has found that women and girls with disabilities were frequently abandoned or left behind in crises, condemning them to face isolation, neglect, and abuse in post-conflict settings.[xxx] Despite commitments from governments and the UN, prevention efforts, access to services, and holding perpetrators accountable all remain extremely weak, and in some cases, non-existent.

Women displaced by armed conflict often find it difficult to access necessary long-term protection and humanitarian assistance. In Colombia, in an example that highlights the complexity of long-term access to assistance, Lucia fled her community in Antioquia with her husband and six children when an armed group threatened her son for refusing to join their ranks in 2010. Lucia’s husband had physically abused her and this became worse after the family fled to Medellín. Despite trying to access humanitarian assistance for herself and her children directly, the government agency never responded to her case. [xxxi]

No one has offered me one-on-one counselling of any kind. I’d be interested in receiving professional counseling to help me process my experiences if it was available.… I have trouble sleeping at night, and only sleep a few hours at a time. When I sleep, I often see my parents and siblings in front of my eyes, especially the image of my brothers being forced to kneel on the road, and my mother’s face.

Narin (pseudonym)

20-year-old woman from Sinjar who escaped captivity and sexual abuse by ISIS fighters, Dohuk, Iraq, January 2015

Women with disabilities in displacement settings also face discrimination on the basis of gender, disability, and poverty, and thus need particular measures to address protection concerns.[xxxii] Lack of mobility and communication barriers, for example, mean women with disabilities are at particular risk of sexual violence. This discrimination, as well as more general social stigma, prevents them from realizing their rights to accessible information, and accessing health care and other government services. In a displacement camp in Northern Uganda, Charity, a woman with a physical disability, recounted her experience: “People told me I should just die so others can eat the food: ‘You are useless. You are a waste of food.’”[xxxiii]

In line with their obligations under international humanitarian law—the laws of war—parties to armed conflicts should take all feasible measures to protect civilians under their control from attack, including protecting women and girls from sexual and other gender-based violence.[xxxiv]  International human rights law also applies during armed conflict, and provides protections to women and girls against sexual violence and other abuses, including domestic violence.[xxxv] States have obligations to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and other serious human rights abuses and prosecute those responsible.

International humanitarian and human rights law prohibit acts of sexual violence. International humanitarian law sets out protections for civilians and other non-combatants during both international and non-international armed conflicts.[xxxvi] It implicitly and explicitly prohibits both state armed forces and non-state armed groups from committing rape and other forms of sexual violence.[xxxvii]

International human rights law also contains protections from rape and other forms of sexual abuse through its prohibitions on torture and other ill-treatment, slavery, forced prostitution, and discrimination based on sex.[xxxviii]  The Convention on the Rights of the Child contains additional protections for children.[xxxix]

Recommendations to Governments, Parties to Armed Conflicts, UN agencies, and the UN Secretariat

  1. Comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law prohibitions of rape and other forms of sexual violence, sexual slavery, cruel treatment, and other abuses. All parties to armed conflicts should issue clear, public orders to all forces under their control to end and appropriately punish all abuses, including crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.
     
  2. Governments providing military and other security assistance should ensure that such support does not encourage or facilitate abuses against women, and that it provides a basis for promoting greater respect for women’s rights.  Compliance with international human rights standards should be a factor in evaluating the continuation of such support. Governments should vet recipients of this assistance to exclude units or individuals when there is credible information they have been involved in serious violations of human rights.
     
  3. Ensure that survivors of sexual violence and other gender-based violence have access to essential medical and psychological care, as well as available economic and social support. Humanitarian aid should include access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services that respect the confidentiality and rights of survivors, including for pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, and injuries resulting from sexual violence, with specific measures taken to ensure these services are accessible for women with disabilities.
     
  4. Make women’s and girls’ protection and access to assistance a priority in displacement settings, including through consultation, promoting women’s leadership, camp and shelter design, registration and distribution systems, security measures, and recruitment and training of female security staff.
     
  5. Ensure all parties to armed conflicts grant UN agencies and independent humanitarian organizations unfettered access to civilians and communities in need of assistance. The media and human rights groups should also be provided access to conflict areas.
     
  6. Governments and the UN should highlight women’s participation, protection, and assistance concerns at the highest levels, including by conducting high-level visits to areas where serious abuses have been reported and raising the issues with senior government officials, donor governments, and regional and international bodies. Security Council members should press all parties to armed conflicts to meet all international law obligations.
     
  7. The UN Security Council and concerned governments should impose arms embargoes on state armed forces and non-state armed groups implicated in widespread or systematic serious human rights abuses, including those targeting women and girls. The Security Council should require states to suspend all military sales and assistance, including technical training and services, to these abusive actors until meaningful steps are taken to end such violations and appropriately punish those responsible. Travel bans and asset freezes should also be imposed on individuals responsible for serious abuses, with appropriate due process protections.

“For three months, I had a feeling that one of us was going to die,” said Maha, 28 (left), of the young activists group in which she participated. In November, 2012, she and fellow members of the group had just finished a peaceful protest outside a mosque in Aleppo, when government shelling struck the site, killing her husband of only a few weeks. Her sister Nuha, 23 (right), also an activist, was kidnapped by pro-government militia while on her way to work in Damascus in August 2012 and held for 23 days. 

©2014 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Accountability

We want these people punished. We just don’t have the reach or the power. If I did, we would have dealt with it a long time ago. We need support.

—Husband of Nandita (pseudonym), who was raped in 2001 because her husband was a Maoist combatant, Nepal, April 2014[xl]

Perpetrators of abuses in armed conflicts rarely face justice and, by all accounts, are even less likely to when responsible for sexual violence against women and girls. In November 2012, in Minova, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congolese army soldiers raped at least 76 women and girls when nearby Goma fell to the M23 rebel group.[xli] The crimes created an outcry at the national and international level. Strong international pressure was brought on the Congolese authorities to pursue justice. The UN threatened to suspend support by the peacekeeping mission MONUSCO to the Congolese army unless those responsible were brought to justice. The UN Security Council and donor governments raised the need for accountability for the crimes in Minova in multiple statements and in meetings with Congolese authorities. High-profile visits to the area by the Congolese minister of justice, the wife of President Joseph Kabila, UK Foreign Minister William Hague, and UN refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie, raised attention to the issue.

Three years after the attacks, accountability, services, and security are still insufficient. Despite considerable efforts by Congolese authorities and international partners to ensure judicial proceedings in the case, including by providing for the participation of numerous victims and effective protection of victims and witnesses, the verdict did little to achieve justice. Out of 39 soldiers and officers brought to trial, only 2 rank-and-file soldiers were convicted of rape.  All mid-ranking officers present in Minova at the time of the crimes and brought to trial were completely acquitted. No high-level officers were even charged.[xlii] 

The Minova case illustrates the difficulties of ensuring accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. Congolese authorities and international partners have made considerable efforts to increase accountability for sexual violence in Congo over the past several years, resulting in a few trials involving charges of rape as a war crime or a crime against humanity, and dozens of proceedings and convictions for rape as an ordinary crime. Investigating and proving sexual violence in judicial proceedings remains a complex matter and further efforts are needed.

We want these people punished. We just don’t have the reach or the power. If I did, we would have dealt with it a long time ago. We need support.

Husband of Nandita (pseudonym), who was raped in 2001 because her husband was a Maoist combatant, Nepal, April 2014

Women and girls who suffer rights abuses in armed conflicts, including sexual violence, face tremendous barriers in obtaining redress. Regular police and court functions may be in disarray. They may not wish to seek avenues for justice out of fear of retaliation or marginalization in their communities and homes. They may lack the financial or logistical means to access courts and legal assistance. National judicial systems often lack expertise in handling vulnerable victims of sexual violence during investigations and prosecutions. Physical protection and psychological assistance may be lacking. There may be strong resistance to or lack of resources for reforming the security apparatus in the immediate and long-term aftermath of an armed conflict. Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs often neglect to address female combatants and women euphemistically called “bush wives,” or women who are associated with armed groups, often forcibly. Women with disabilities have particular difficulty accessing redress or justice mechanisms, including physical barriers in entering police stations and courtrooms, communication barriers, or questioning of the credibility of their testimony if they have a psychosocial or intellectual disability.

Even when international peacekeeping forces are in place to bring stability to conflict-riven regions, they are sometimes perpetrators themselves. Although the UN has a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, accountability for these crimes remains a concern.[xliii] For example, in the past decade, there have been allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic, Haiti, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The persistent lack of transparency on these cases makes it very difficult to help victims seek justice. With the UN historically providing few specifics on allegations of abuse, and few countries that contribute troops and police to UN operations providing information on investigations and prosecutions, the scope of the problem is unclear. In one of the few cases in which public information is available on accountability for UN peacekeepers, a Pakistani peacekeeper charged with sexually assaulting a Haitian boy was convicted, and faced a one-year sentence upon conviction.[xliv]

A woman prisoner looks out a window in Parwan prison north of Kabul, Afghanistan, in February 2011.The woman was convicted of moral crimes after a man from her neighborhood raped her. She later gave birth in prison.

© 2011 Farzana Wahidy

When crimes of sexual violence are committed as part of armed conflict, they can be prosecuted as war crimes. States have an obligation to investigate alleged war crimes committed by members of the armed forces and other nationals, and prosecute those responsible.[xlv] Non-state armed groups also have an obligation to prevent war crimes and should investigate and appropriately punish perpetrators.[xlvi] Those acts of sexual violence committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) specifies that acts of rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity can constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.[xlvii]

Aside from their direct criminal responsibility for crimes committed, for instance, by issuing orders that subordinates carry out, commanders and other superiors may be criminally liable for failing to prevent or punish crimes committed by their subordinates.[xlviii]

International human rights law also enshrines the right to an effective remedy, which obligates the state to prevent, investigate, and punish serious human rights violations.[xlix] State should also provide reparations to victims of human rights violations, such as compensation for damages.[l] The UN has reaffirmed these principles specifically in relation to eliminating violence against women.[li]

Recommendations to Governments, UN agencies, and the UN Secretariat

  1. Ensure comprehensive, credible, and impartial investigations into sexual and gender-based violence and appropriately and fairly prosecute those responsible. This should include independent investigations into all allegations against members of armed forces, including peacekeepers, that respect the confidentiality and rights of survivors.
     
  2. Ensure accessible judicial processes that adhere to international fair trial standards for grave international crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence. This should include providing specialized training to investigators, prosecutors, and judges on the proper handling of such cases.  Adequate protection measures and psychological support should be available, before, during, and after trials, including, but not limited to, relocation measures for victims and their households. Judicial mechanisms should also be accessible for women with disabilities, including by facilitating access to police stations and courts, ensuring access to documentation, and relevant training for law enforcement and the judiciary.
     
  3. Strengthen independent institutions capable of responding to sexual and gender-based violence and supporting survivors. Governments should create accessible and safe channels to report rape, assault, and other abuses and issue clear, public orders to all security forces to end any harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests of those who speak out or seek to enforce their rights. Reporting mechanisms should be fully inclusive and provide specific accommodations for women and girls with disabilities. Governments should ensure proper and timely investigations and prosecutions that respect the rights of the survivor.
     
  4. Enact security sector reform to provide vetting of police and other security personnel, ensure recruitment, hiring, and training of female security personnel, and provide training for prosecutors, as well as judges and defense lawyers, on respecting women’s rights in the justice system, including handling crimes of sexual violence. Identify and exclude individuals from the security forces who are under investigation, have charges pending against them, or have been subjected to disciplinary measures or criminal convictions for sexual violence or other serious abuses.
     
  5. Press for accountability and justice, including through the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council. When national level efforts fail or are inadequate, pursue alternative paths to justice, such as independent commissions of inquiry, the use of universal jurisdiction, and when applicable, referrals to the ICC. In accordance with the ICC prosecutor’s newly adopted Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, the ICC should continue to ensure that these crimes are the focus of special attention in ICC proceedings.[lii]
     
  6. Ensure reparations programs meet international standards and include specific consideration for women and girls. Consult with local women’s rights groups and women from communities affected by armed conflict in determining and distributing reparation packages.
     
  7. Protect women’s rights in national laws and ensure they meet international standards. This includes ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) with no reservations, or removing any existing reservations to CEDAW. National laws should guarantee equality before the law, protection from violence, and freedom from discrimination, including on the basis of sex, gender, pregnancy, disability, and marital status. Consistent with international standards, sexual violence and other gender-based violence crimes should be included in the criminal code. Ensure accountability when these laws are violated.
     
  8. Institute measures to ensure accountability, including by raising public concern and urging relevant actors, including troop-contributing countries, to carry out immediate investigations when there are substantial grounds to believe that peacekeepers have committed serious human rights abuses or war crimes, including sexual exploitation and abuse.
 

[i] Human Rights Watch, A Revolution for All: Women’s Rights in the New Libya, May 2013,  https://www.hrw.org/report/2013/05/27/revolution-all/womens-rights-new-libya, p. 11.

[ii] “Libya: Extremists Terrorizing Derna Residents,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 27, 2014,  https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/11/27/libya-extremists-terrorizing-derna-residents.

[iii] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1325 (2000), S/RES/1325 (2000) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1325(2000) (accessed July 21, 2015).

[iv] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1820 (2008), S/RES/1820 (2008) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1820(2008) (accessed  July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1888 (2009), S/RES/1888 (2009) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1888(2009) (accessed July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1889 (2009), S/RES/1889 (2009) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1889(2009) (accessed July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1960 (2010), S/RES/1960 (2010) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1960(2010) (accessed July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 2106 (2013), S/RES/2106 (2013) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2106(2013) (accessed July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 2122 (2013), S/RES/2122 (2013) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2122(2013) (accessed July 21, 2015).

[v] According to the 2014 Secretary-General’s report on women, peace and security, data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that “only 0.35 per cent of aid allocated to conflict, peace and security activities [was] marked as having a gender focus.” United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security,  S/2014/693, September 2014, http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2014_693.pdf (accessed July 17, 2015).

[vi] Based on data from: NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, “Mapping Women, Peace and Security in the UN Security Council: 2012-2013,” December 2013, http://womenpeacesecurity.org/media/pdf-2012-13_MAP_Report.pdf  (accessed July 8, 2015); and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, PeaceWomen, “Report Watch,” undated, http://www.peacewomen.org/security-council/report-watch (accessed July 8, 2015).

[vii] United Nations Security Council, Sixty-eighth year, 7045th meeting, October 21, 2013, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.7045 (accessed July 8, 2015).

 [viii] Based on data from: NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, “Mapping Women, Peace and Security in the UN Security Council: 2012-2013”; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, PeaceWomen, “Report Watch”; and Security Council Report, “Cross Cutting Report: Women, Peace and Security,” April 2014,   http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/cross_cutting_report_2_women_peace_security_2014.pdf  (accessed July 8, 2015).

[ix] Human Rights Watch, Mass Rape in North Darfur: Sudanese Army Attacks against Civilians in Tabit, February 2015, https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/02/11/mass-rape-north-darfur/sudanese-army-attacks-against-civilians-tabit.

[x] Heather Barr, “A seat at the table in Afghanistan,” Washington Post, May 1, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-seat-at-the-table-in-afghanistan/2015/05/01/fd930e26-ef41-11e4-8abc-d6aa3bad79dd_story.html (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xi] Statement by Orzala Ashraf Nemat at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, October 28, 2011, http://womenpeacesecurity.org/media/pdf-Statement_OpenDebate_Oct2011.pdf (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xii] Oxfam “Behind Closed Doors: The risk of denying women a voice in determining Afghanistan’s future,” November 24, 2014, https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp200-behind-doors-afghan-women-rights-241114-en.pdf (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xiii] See UN Women, “Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence,”  October 2012, http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2012/10/wpssourcebook-03a-womenpeacenegotiations-en.pdf (accessed July 20, 2015); and United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on Women and Peace and Security, S/2011/598, September 29, 2011, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2011/598 (accessed July 27, 2015); S/2012/732, October 2, 2012, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2012/732 (accessed July 27, 2015); S/2013/525, September 4, 2013, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2013/525 (accessed July 27, 2015); and S/2014/693, September 23, 2014, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2014/693 (accessed July 27, 2015). See also, Christine Bell and Catherine O’Rourke, Women and Peace Agreements 1325 Dataset, Distributed by University of Ulster, Transitional Justice Institute, 2010 http://www.transitionaljustice.ulster.ac.uk/tji_database.html (accessed July 20, 2015).

[xiv] “Women take the reins to build peace in Colombia”, UN Women press release, May 28, 2015, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2015/5/women-build-peace-in-colombia (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xv] Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, “Innovative WILPF Conference Gathers Syrian And Bosnian Women’s Rights Activists,” February 21, 2014,  http://www.wilpfinternational.org/innovative-wilpf-conference-gathers-syrian-and-bosnian-womens-rights-activists-2/ (accessed July 16, 205); Cynthia Enloe, “Day I of the Syrian Women’s Peace Talks in Geneva: Prelude to the Official Syrian Peace Talks,” Women’s Action for New Directions,  January 20, 2014, http://www.wandactioncenter.org/2014/01/30/guest-author-cynthia-enloes-report-from-the-syrian-peace-talks/ (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xvi] “He Left Before Syria’s Women Could Speak,” Human Rights Watch Dispatch, December 19, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/19/dispatches-he-left-syria-s-women-could-speak (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xvii] UNSCR 1888, Operative Paragraph 17; UNSCR 1820, Operative Paragraph 10; United Nations Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Resource Centre (UNDDR), Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standard, “5:10, Women, Gender and DDR,” August 2006, http://unddr.org/uploads/documents/IDDRS%205.10%20Women,%20Gender%20and%20DDR.pdf (accessed 21 July 2015).

[xviii] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1325, Operative Paragraph 12.

[xix] “UN Human Rights Council: Call to Recognize the Status of Women's Human Rights Defenders,” Human Rights Watch Oral Statement during the Annual Day of Discussion on Women's Human Rights, June 26, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/26/un-human-rights-council-call-recognize-status-womens-human-rights-defenders.

[xx] “Sudan: Surge in Detention, Beatings, Around Elections,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 28, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/28/sudan-surge-detention-beatings-around-elections.

[xxi] “Afghanistan: Urgent Need for Safe Facilities for Female Police,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 25, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/04/25/afghanistan-urgent-need-safe-facilities-female-police.

[xxii] “Afghanistan: Surge in Women Jailed for ‘Moral Crimes,’” Human Rights Watch news release, May 21, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/21/afghanistan-surge-women-jailed-moral-crimes.

[xxiii] Human Rights Watch, “Here, Rape is Normal”: A Five-Point Plan to Curtail Sexual Violence in Somalia, February 2014, https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/02/13/here-rape-normal/five-point-plan-curtail-sexual-violence-somalia.

[xxiv] “Iraq: ISIS Escapees Describe Systematic Rape,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 14, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/14/iraq-isis-escapees-describe-systematic-rape.

[xxv] Human Rights Watch, “We are Still Here”: Women on the Front Lines of Syria's Conflict, July 2014, https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/07/02/we-are-still-here/women-front-lines-syrias-conflict.

[xxvi] “Sudan: Soldiers, Militias Killing, Raping Civilians,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 14, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/14/sudan-soldiers-militias-killing-raping-civilians; “Sudan: Mass Rape by Army in Darfur,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 11, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/11/sudan-mass-rape-army-darfur.

[xxvii] Human Rights Watch, “Those Terrible Weeks in their Camp”: Boko Haram Violence against Women and Girls in Northeast Nigeria, October 2014, https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/10/27/those-terrible-weeks-their-camp/boko-haram-violence-against-women-and-girls.

[xxviii] “Iraq: ISIS Escapees Describe Systematic Rape,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 14, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/14/iraq-isis-escapees-describe-systematic-rape.

29 United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security,  S/2014/693, p. 19.

[xxx] Human Rights Watch, “As if We Weren’t Human”: Discrimination and Violence against Women with Disabilities in Northern Uganda, August 2010, https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/08/26/if-we-werent-human/discrimination-and-violence-against-women-disabilities-northern.

[xxxi] Human Rights Watch, Rights Out of Reach: Obstacles to Health, Justice, and Protection for Displaced Victims of Gender-Based Violence in Colombia, November 2012, https://www.hrw.org/report/2012/11/14/rights-out-reach/obstacles-health-justice-and-protection-displaced-victims-gender, p. 5.

[xxxii] World Bank and World Health Organization, “World Report on Disability,” 2011, http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2011/9789240685215_eng.pdf (accessed July 21, 2015), p. 8.

[xxxiii] Human Rights Watch, “As if We Weren’t Human.”

[xxxiv] See International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Customary International Humanitarian Law (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), rule 22, citing Protocol I, art. 58(c) and rule 93 (prohibiting rape and other forms of sexual violence).

[xxxv] The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment (art. 7) and protects women’s right to be free from discrimination based on sex (arts. 2(1) and 26). ICCPR, adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted December 10, 1984, G.A. res. 39/46, annex, 39 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 51) at 197, U.N. Doc. A/39/51 (1984), entered into force June 26, 1987, arts. 2 and 16; Rome Statute, arts. 7 and 8. The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that governments violate their treaty obligations not only when state actors are responsible for the action, but also when the state fails to take necessary steps to prevent violations caused by private actors. The committee’s General Recommendation No. 31 to the ICCPR notes that governments must “take appropriate measures or … exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate or redress the harm caused by such acts by private persons or entities.” The Committee against Torture requires governments to prevent and protect victims from gender-based violence and rape by exercising due diligence in investigating, prosecuting, and punishing perpetrators—even private actors—of rape and sexual assault.

[xxxvi] See four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their two Protocols Additional of 1977. Other sources of international humanitarian law are the 1907 Hague Convention and Regulations, decisions of international tribunals, and customary law.

[xxxvii] Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

[xxxviii] The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted December 18, 1979, G.A. res. 34/180, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 46) at 193, U.N. Doc. A/34/46, entered into force September 3, 1981.

[xxxix] Convention on the Rights of the Child, G.A. res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force Sept. 2, 1990, arts. 2, 34, 37, 43.

[xl] Human Rights Watch, Silenced and Forgotten: Survivors of Nepal’s Conflict-Era Sexual Violence, September 2014, https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/09/23/silenced-and-forgotten/survivors-nepals-conflict-era-sexual-violence.

[xli] The United Nations has documented at least 135 victims in this case. The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Report of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office on Human Rights Violations Perpetrated by Soldiers of the Congolese Armed Forces and Combatants of the M23 in Goma and Sake, North Kivu Province, and In and Around Minova, South Kivu Province, From 15 November to 2 December 2012,” May 2013, p. 4,  http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/CD/UNJHROMay2013_en.pdf (accessed July 8, 2015).

[xlii] “DR Congo: War Crimes by M23, Congolese Army,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 5, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/05/dr-congo-war-crimes-m23-congolese-army; “Revealed: how the world turned its back on rape victims of Congo,” The Guardian, undated, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/13/rape-victims-congo-world-turned-away (accessed July 8, 2015).

[xliii] United Nations General Assembly, “Fifty-ninth session, Agenda item 77, Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects,” March 24, 2005 http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/59/710 (accessed July 8, 2015); United Nations Secretariat, Secretary-General’s Bulletin, “Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse,” October 9, 2003, https://cdu.unlb.org/Portals/0/PdfFiles/PolicyDocC.pdf (accessed July 8, 2015); Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), “Evaluation Report: Evaluation of the Enforcement and Remedial Assistance Efforts for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by the United Nations and Related Personnel in Peacekeeping Operations,” May 2015, https://oios.un.org/page?slug=evaluation-report (accessed July 23, 2015).

[xliv] Somini Sengupta, “Allegations Against French Peacekeepers Highlight Obstacles in Addressing Abuse,” New York Times, May 25, 2015, (accessed July 8, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/26/world/europe/allegations-against-french-peacekeepers-highlight-obstacles-in-addressing-abuse.html.

[xlv] The obligation of states to prosecute grave breaches of international humanitarian law is outlined in each of the Geneva Conventions.

[xlvi] ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, pp. 591-93, 607-10.

[xlvii] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9, July 17, 1998, entered into force July 1, 2002. The Rome Statute is the treaty creating the ICC. Command responsibility is an established principle of customary international humanitarian law and has been incorporated into the Rome Statute.

[xlviii] Rome Statute, art. 28.

[xlix] See UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 31, Nature of the General Legal Obligation on States Parties to the Covenant, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13 (2004) , para. 15. See also, Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity (“Impunity Principles”), U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1, February 8, 2005, adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights in Resolution E/CN.4/2005/81, April 15, 2005, principle I; Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted December 16, 2005, G.A. res. 60/147, U.N. Doc. A/RES/60/147 (2005), principle 11.

[l] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 31, para. 16.

[li] UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, December 20, 1993, G.A. res. 48/104, 48 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 217, U.N. Doc. A/48/49 (1993).

[lii] International Criminal Court, Office of the Prosecutor, Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, June 2014, http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/OTP-Policy-Paper-on-Sexual-and-Gender-Based-Crimes--June-2014.pdf (accessed July 8, 2015).

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Liesl Gerntholtz is the executive director of the women's rights division. She is an expert on women's rights in Africa and has worked and written extensively on violence against women and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. Her work at Human Rights Watch has included documenting access to safe and legal abortion in Ireland and sexual and gender-based violence in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Before joining Human Rights Watch, Liesl worked for some of the key constitutional institutions promoting human rights and democracy in a post-apartheid South Africa, including the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality.  A lawyer by training, she was involved in high-profile, strategic human rights litigation to promote women and children's rights, including a case that changed the definition of rape in South Africa.

NPR Interview - Women's Rights In The Age Of The Arab Spring

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Indonesia said it will stop administering “virginity tests” to female aspiring civil servants as part of its admission process. The country’s Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo announced this change—which will affect women working in government offices—on the heels of Human Rights Watch research that documented this degrading practice in the admission process for another branch of the Indonesian government, the National Police force.

Human Rights Watch found that the testing included the invasive “two-finger test” to determine whether female applicants’ hymens are intact. Minister Kumolo said that it was “illogical” to recruit a student based on her virginity and noted that a woman’s hymen could be torn due to sports, exercise, or other accidents. 

Rumors about these tests have circulated for decades, but Human Rights Watch brought the issue into the national spotlight by gathering concrete testimony from eight  current and former police women and applicants as well as police doctors, a police recruitment evaluator, a National Police Commission member, and several prominent women’s rights activists. The women we interviewed described the examination as frightening, humiliating, and extremely painful.  

Virginity tests are a form of gender-based violence, cannot be administered to men, and are inherently degrading and discriminatory. Moreover, these tests have been widely discredited by the scientific community and the World Health Organization. For years, Human Rights Watch has been pushing for an end to this practice and documenting cases of abusive testing in Indonesia and several other countries including Egypt, India, and Afghanistan

Ending virginity tests for Institute of Public Administration applicants is an important step forward, but much remains to be done.  Recently, the municipal government of Indonesia’s city of Jember in east Java proposed forcing female high school students to pass a virginity test before they could receive their diploma. This time, however, officials quickly back-pedaled from the proposal.

Indonesia’s National Police and the Indonesian Armed Forces have yet to follow the Institute of Public Administration’s lead. Despite Human Rights Watch’s findings, police officials continue to deny administering virginity tests, claiming that the female recruits are simply undergoing a required “medical examination.” Human Rights Watch’s research has also revealed that the military—the air force, the army, and the navy—has for decades also extended the “virginity test” requirement to female recruits as well as the fiancées of military officers prior to marriage.

Indonesia's police and military need to abolish virginity testing and make sure their recruiting stations across the country stop using it as well.

 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Abusive teachers and other staff sexually exploit, harass, and abuse adolescent girls in Senegal’s secondary schools. While Senegal has taken important steps to expand girls’ access to quality education, it needs to step up efforts to protect girls from these abuses and hold teachers who violate professional norms or Senegalese law, responsible. Human Rights Watch found cases of teachers who abuse their authority by engaging in sexual relations with students in exchange for money, good grades, food, or items such as mobile phones and new clothes.  #ItsNotOK

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Video

Video: Senegalese activists campaign against sexual abuse in schools

Abusive teachers and other staff sexually exploit, harass, and abuse adolescent girls in Senegal’s secondary schools. While Senegal has taken important steps to expand girls’ access to quality education, it needs to step up efforts to protect girls from these abuses and hold teachers who violate professional norms or Senegalese law, responsible. #ItsNotOK

(Dakar) – Abusive teachers and other staff sexually exploit, harass, and abuse adolescent girls in Senegal’s secondary schools, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. While Senegal has taken important steps to expand girls’ access to quality education, it needs to step up efforts to protect girls from these abuses and hold teachers who violate professional norms or Senegalese law, responsible.

The 85-page report, “‘It’s Not Normal’: Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse in Secondary Schools,” documents abuses against female students in secondary schools, primarily by teachers and school officials. Human Rights Watch found cases of teachers who abuse their authority by engaging in sexual relations with students in exchange for money, good grades, food, or items such as mobile phones and new clothes.

“To its credit, Senegal has acknowledged that sexual violence is a serious problem in its schools,” said Elin Martínez, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “But many teachers are getting away with sexually exploiting and harassing their students, who tolerate sexual offenses to advance in secondary school.”

The behavior is a gross violation of teachers’ professional and ethical obligations, and when victims are below age 16, is a crime under Senegalese law. Harassment and coercion of students for sexual purposes and the abuse of their power and authority over a child by teachers carries sentences of up to 10 years in prison.

Human Rights Watch conducted interviews and group discussions with over 160 girls and young women, as well as with more than 60 parents, education experts, psychologists, local activists, development partners, and national and local government officials in eight districts in four regions of Senegal.

The scale and prevalence of sexual abuse against students is unknown. Taboos and social stigmas have silenced many girls and young women affected by these practices. But research by Human Rights Watch, United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and academics, suggests that school-related sexual and gender-based violence is a serious problem in Senegal.

Students, and in some cases teachers and school officials, described some of the cases documented as “relationships” between teachers and students. Such characterization can downplay the gravity of the abuse, affect reporting, and blur school officials’ perception of the severity of these abuses. In some cases, girls get pregnant as a result, and drop out of school permanently.

Aïssatou, 16, whose real name is not used for her protection, said: “One day, he [the teacher] asked me to go to his house. When I went to his house, he offered to give me money and resources. And I told him no… He became nasty, [he said] he was not going to give me good grades.”

Students are also harassed by teachers and are affected by the gender stereotypes and sexual overtones in class. Some girls said their teachers use inappropriate language or gestures – describing girls’ bodies or clothes in a sexual manner – when talking to students directly or referring to other students in their class.

The government has taken steps to tackle sexual violence and gender-based discrimination in schools as part of broader efforts to increase girls’ access to, and retention in, secondary education. In 2013, it adopted a robust child protection strategy. With international support, the government has also focused on reducing teenage pregnancies, including through programs that help girls stay in secondary school.

Some schools have tried to ensure that students study in a safe learning environment, adopting zero tolerance policies for school-related abuses or by making girls comfortable with reporting abuse. Lalia Mané, a middle school teacher and a member of the government’s girls’ education initiative, said: “I tell my students, if there’s a teacher that asks you for favors … you must go press charges at the police station.”

But these measures are not replicated in all secondary schools because there is no national policy to tackle school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse.

Key factors that undermined the consistent reporting of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse include cultural perceptions that girls and young women are responsible for their teachers’ advances; a concern over losing teachers, and the lack of clarity on what constitutes sexual exploitation. Schools generally lack confidential systems for reporting, and many girls are reluctant to report abuse for fear that officials will shame them or not believe them.

The government should adopt a stronger national response to end sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse in schools, including a national policy that clarifies what constitutes unlawful or inappropriate behavior. It should make clear that any and all sexual “relationships” between teaching staff and students, and exploitation and coercion are explicitly prohibited and subject to professional sanction. It should ensure that principals and senior school staff understand their obligation to properly investigate any allegations of sexual abuse and to refer cases to police or prosecutors. Human Rights Watch found that schools do not adequately teach children about sexuality, reproductive health, and their sexual and reproductive rights. The government should adopt a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum that follows international standards and ensure that young people have access to good adolescent health services.

“The government wants girls to succeed in education,” Martínez said. “But it needs to end the culture of silence around abuse by teachers, encourage girls to speak out, and send an unequivocal message to all education staff that it will not tolerate sexual violence against students.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

 

Summary

In a village in the southern region of Sédhiou, 23-year old Fanta told Human Rights Watch about a secret “relationship” she had with her 30-year-old teacher, which began when she was 16. “I felt the shame in class … my classmates knew I was going out with him,” Fanta told Human Rights Watch. And so did other teachers, “but they said nothing.”

Fanta realized she was pregnant when she was 17. When her father tried to come to an arrangement with the teacher – a usual step taken by families who want to settle issues discretely to avoid facing their village’s scorn—he denied being the father of the child Fanta was expecting. “I told him ‘you have ruined my girls’ education,’ but he denied everything,” Fanta’s father, Cheikh, told Human Rights Watch. Even after it became evident that Fanta was pregnant, the school never investigated the matter, and the principal did not reach out to her, Fanta felt even more ashamed by the teacher’s denial: “I felt humiliated in front of my classmates.”

In Senegal, girls like Fanta face high levels of sexual and gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, by teachers and other school officials. Unfortunately, these girls have few options for justice. Such cases are not often reported or investigated by school authorities. In some cases, families prefer to negotiate with men who make girls pregnant, including reaching agreement with the men to provide financial support for the girls during pregnancy, rather than to seek redress through official channels. But in many other cases, these girls would not inform their families because the taboos and stigma associated with such pregnancies are so damaging.

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© 2018 Human Rights Watch

The scale and prevalence of sexual abuse against students is unknown, however, research by United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and academics indicates that school-related sexual and gender-based violence is a serious problem in the country’s education system.

Based on research conducted in 2017 in Senegal’s southern-most regions of Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor, as well as in and around the capital, Dakar, this report exposes the oft-underreported practice of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse primarily perpetrated by teachers and school officials and urges the government of Senegal to adopt key measures to stop these unlawful practices –which sometimes also constitute criminal offenses—in its schools.

This report, using the World Health’s Organization definition of sexual exploitation as any “actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes,” documents how adolescent girls are exposed to sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse by teachers and school officials in public middle and upper secondary schools.

Video

Video: Senegalese activists campaign against sexual abuse in schools

Abusive teachers and other staff sexually exploit, harass, and abuse adolescent girls in Senegal’s secondary schools. While Senegal has taken important steps to expand girls’ access to quality education, it needs to step up efforts to protect girls from these abuses and hold teachers who violate professional norms or Senegalese law, responsible. #ItsNotOK

Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 girls and young women ranging in age from 12 to 25 years, and held group discussions with a total of 122 secondary school girls, most of whom attended 14 public middle (écoles moyen) and 8 upper-secondary (lycées) schools across different regions of the country.

Human Rights Watch found that some teachers abuse their position of authority by sexually harassing girls and engaging in sexual relations with them, many of whom are under 18. The teachers often lure them with the promise of money, good grades, food, or items such as mobile phones and new clothes. Female students—and to a certain extent, teachers and school officials—often characterized it as “relationships” between teachers and students. Human Rights Watch believes that this type of characterization undermines the gravity of the abuse, affects reporting, and blurs the perpetrators’ perception of the severity of these abuses. Many of the cases documented in this report should be treated, and prosecuted, as sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers takes place in a variety of ways: some teachers would approach their students –during classes, or school evening activities — demanding a favor or requesting their phone numbers. When girls turned down teachers’ proposals, they believed the teachers punished them for rejecting their advances by awarding them lower grades than they deserved, ignoring and not letting them participate in class discussions or exercises. Often, the exploitation and harassment span months or in one case, years.

Girls are also affected by the gender stereotypes and sexual overtones they experience in class. Some girls told Human Rights Watch their teachers use inappropriate language or gestures –for example, describing girls’ bodies or clothes in a sexual manner—when talking to students directly or referring to other students in their class. Some girls feel wary when they know a teacher is making advances on a friend or classmate. When these types of harassment or abuse take place, teachers, parents, or even classmates, often blame the girls for attracting unnecessary attention from teaches, or provoking teachers with their outfits.

Senegal lacks a binding national code of conduct that outlines the obligations of teachers, school officials and education actors vis-à-vis students. However, teachers in Senegal, like their peers in many other countries, swear to adhere to a non-binding ethical and professional oath when they begin their teaching careers, pledging never to use their authority over students for sexual purposes.

Teachers’ behaviors outlined in this report are not only a gross violation of these professional and ethical obligations, but also a crime under Senegalese law when the girls are below age 16. Harassment and coercion of students for sexual purposes and the abuse of their power and authority over a child by teachers carries the maximum sentence of 10 years.

There have been reports in the Senegalese media of rape by teachers in schools across the country, raising serious concerns about what many girls may be going through. Since 2013, media reports show that at least 24 primary and secondary school teachers have been prosecuted for rape or acts of pedophilia – both constitute sexual offenses under Senegalese law. Although it is important that these prosecutions have taken place, our findings suggest that prosecution, professional sanction by superiors, or redress for other forms of sexual violence, particularly sexual exploitation, has been limited.

But many cases of sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers have gone unreported, and school authorities have not held perpetrators accountable. This is partly because reporting cases of sexual abuse or violence in schools overwhelmingly relies on a principal’s decision to act on or ignore a complaint, and because families are reluctant to report cases to the police. Although some principals take allegations seriously, they try to conduct informal investigations, talk to staff discretely, and address problems internally, to protect their staff, retain teachers, or prevent scrutiny from education inspectorates or child protection committees.

In addition, talking about sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse is considered a taboo topic for many girls. Moreover, many students do not fully understand what sexual offenses are. Education about the full spectrum of offenses, or how to prevent and report sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse is scarce, and certainly not part of a national effort.

Even when girls who are sexually exploited, harassed or abused want to come forward, they are reluctant to report cases within schools for fear of being stigmatized or shamed. When they do come forward, senior school officials do not always take their word for it, and in some cases, are told that they have provoked their teachers. This has led to mistrust among students, and a feeling that reporting abuses will amount to nothing. As a result, girls affected by sexual exploitation, harassment, or other forms of abuse, rarely see their cases investigated, or see their perpetrators brought to account through the judiciary and the Ministry of National Education.

To its credit, the government has taken steps to tackle sexual violence and gender-based discrimination in schools as part of broader efforts to increase girls’ access to, and retention in, secondary education. In 2013, it adopted a robust child protection strategy, which launched child protection committees at all administrative levels. With international support, the government has also targeted some resources, seeking to end teenage pregnancies, and to empower girls. Many of these programs have not yet been taken to scale, remain contingent on donor’s financial support and have failed to address widespread sexual exploitation in schools.

Many school teachers, according to Human Rights Watch research, are genuinely working to ensure that students study in a safe learning environment, so that they can successfully complete their education. Many focus on tackling school-related sexual abuse. For example, some school principals have, on their own initiative, adopted zero tolerance policies for school-related abuses, and have openly talked about unlawful and unacceptable behaviors, to make girls feel comfortable with reporting any abuse or harmful behavior. Also, some committed teachers have dealt with these issues through child rights and child protection trainings, and organized awareness raising events at school to break down the taboos associated with these abuses.

Existing efforts to ensure retention of girls in secondary schools have often complemented school-based initiatives to curb teenage pregnancy rates. These have tended to focus on opening extra-curricular spaces for students to discuss family planning, and how to avoid HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

But the government needs to do a lot more to ensure students have access to adequate comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education. The government has been needlessly slow to adopt a national comprehensive sexual and reproductive health curriculum. At time of writing, it was reluctant to include content on sexuality in the curriculum due to concerns that teaching sexuality contradicts Senegal’s cultural and moral values, as well as pressure from religious groups.

Most public secondary schools in the regions where Human Rights Watch conducted research do not provide adequate, comprehensive and scientifically-accurate content on sexuality or reproduction. In most schools, abstinence remains the leading message. Some of the teachers who lead extra-curricular spaces provide students with some information about contraception, on the basis that this information will only be applied once students get married. Also, there are limited opportunities for young people to obtain useful information within the community. Although the government has made efforts to increase coverage of adolescent health services –including by setting up centers specializing in adolescents’ needs in most regional capitals—it has not guaranteed adequate coverage in rural areas.

Human Rights Watch calls on the government of Senegal to adopt a stronger national response to end sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse in schools. Among its top priorities, the government should adopt a nation-wide policy to tackle sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse in schools. This policy should clarify what constitutes unlawful or inappropriate behavior, and make clear that any and all sexual “relationships” between teaching staff and students, and exploitation and coercion for grades, money or basic items, such as food or mobile phones, are explicitly prohibited and subject to professional sanction. It should clarify that such “relationships” deemed to be constituting sexual offenses will be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators punished.

The government should also focus on increasing accountability for school-related sexual offenses. It should ensure principals and senior school staff understand their obligation to properly investigate any allegation of sexual exploitation, harassment, or abuse. It should introduce adequate trainings on child protection for all teachers, through pre and in-service training.

The government should strive to end the culture of silence around school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, including by making reporting processes clearer, confidential and student-friendly, and roll-out a public education campaign directed at students and young people. This campaign should tackle the stereotypes, taboos and stigma that make girls and young women feel that they are guilty for sexual abuses committed against them. The campaign should also seek to equip students with the knowledge to understand what sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse is, and the confidence to speak out whenever it happens.

 

Key Recommendations

To the Government of Senegal

Adopt Stronger Measures to End School-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Abuse

  • Adopt a national education policy against sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, that includes: guidance on what constitutes or could lead up to these abuses, procedures to be adopted when cases are reported to school staff, clear school-based enforcement mechanisms and sanctions, and referrals to police.
  • Adopt a nationwide binding professional code of conduct for principals, teachers and education officials that is displayed in all schools.
  • Ensure that legislation relating to school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, are rigorously enforced, and that perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice and punished with sanctions that are commensurate to their crimes.

Investigate All Allegations of School-Related Sexual Exploitation, Harassment, and Abuse

  • Adequately respond to cases of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse against students in educational institutions by ensuring that:
    • All schools have functioning confidential and independent reporting mechanisms appropriate to the local school context. These could involve a trained counsellor or designated teacher at a minimum, or a reporting mechanism or telephone hotline system set up to refer complaints directly to a designated member of the relevant child protection committee.
    • Students affected are promptly referred to external services for health, psychological support and contraceptive needs.
    • Senior school officials conduct investigations following any allegations of misconduct, and where a law is violated, refer alleged perpetrators to the police.
    • Perpetrators of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse are suspended from any position of authority affecting the complainant or the investigation during investigations, and if there is sufficient evidence, prosecuted, in line with international fair trial standards, or dealt with through the government’s disciplinary process for civil servants.

Urgently Tackle Barriers that Impede Girls’ Education

  • Ensure secondary education is fully free by removing tuition fees and indirect costs charged by schools.

Provide Adequate Training for Education Staff and Teacher Placement

  • Implement mandatory pre-service teacher training on existing laws on sexual offenses, and the new national school policy against sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, child rights, and the national child protection strategy. All new teachers, school leadership and administrative staff should be trained before their first placement.
  • Adopt and roll-out a focused in-service training on sexual and gender-based violence in schools, starting with heads of school, senior school staff and teachers, and school inspectors.

Adopt a Strong Curriculum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

  • Ensure the curriculum on reproductive health education complies with international standards, and ensure that the national curriculum:
    • Expands to include comprehensive information on sexuality and reproductive health, including information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, responsible sexual behavior, prevention of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; and is mandatory, age-appropriate, and scientifically accurate.

Amend and/or Adopt Laws to Strengthen Protection for Children Affected by Abuses

  • Amend the Penal Code to include:
    • A provision that specifies the minimum age of consent to sexual activity, equal for all children, in accordance with international human rights norms and best practice.
    • A specific criminal offense for an adult who has sexual relations with children under the minimum age of consent. 

Methodology

This report is based on research conducted in June, August, October and November 2017, and July 2018, in the regions of Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor, as well as in and around the capital, Dakar. Human Rights Watch chose these regions because they have some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country, as well as high levels of child marriage and low secondary school retention, according to United Nations and government figures. We also consulted local and national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), many of whom shared information or evidence from their existing programming assisting children affected by sexual and gender-based violence in these regions.

Human Rights Watch conducted 42 individual interviews with 27 girls and 15 young women. Their ages ranged from 12 to 25 years. Thirty-three attended school at the time of the interview while the other nine were no longer in school. We conducted the bulk of the interviews at 14 public middle schools (collèges d’enseignement moyen) and 8 upper-secondary (lycées) schools across different regions. Three of the girls said they were married, and nine girls and young women were pregnant or already had children. Although Human Rights Watch also interviewed girls who attended Franco-Arab, faith-based, and private secular schools, the findings included in this report focus on the situation in secular government secondary schools.

We also conducted focus group discussions with a total of 122 secondary school students in 4 public schools and in 4 villages, ranging from 7 to 22 participants in each of the groups. We organized group discussions to understand the key barriers affecting girls’ education, and ways in which school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse affect female students in their daily lives. All participants were informed that they could speak individually to researchers following group discussions.

Interviews were conducted in French, or in Wolof, Pular, Jola, or Mandinka, and translated into French by adolescent health volunteers and representatives of nongovernmental organizations who accompanied Human Rights Watch researchers.

Human Rights Watch makes every effort to abide by best practice standards for ethical research and documentation of sexual violence. We preceded and ended all interviews with a detailed explanation of informed consent to ensure that interviewees understood the nature and purpose of the interview and could choose whether to speak with researchers. In each case, we explained how we would use and disseminate the information, and sought the interviewees’ permission to include their experiences and recommendations in this report. Human Rights Watch informed girls and young women that they could stop or pause the interview at any time and could decline to answer questions or discuss particular topics.

Some girls and young women preferred not to discuss personal experiences of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, but spoke about friends or classmates affected by these experiences. Six girls and young women said they themselves suffered sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse in the context of school. A further 10 girls and young women provided information on cases of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse of friends or relatives. Most girls and young women interviewed knew of fellow classmates who had experienced school-related sexual exploitation or harassment.

In addition, the report includes information based on 11 interviews with teachers and activists, as well as mental health, adolescent health and child protection experts who supported girls and young women who had endured sexual exploitation, harassment, or abuse in the context of school. Finally, researchers interviewed four relatives or legal guardians of girls or young women who had experienced sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse.

Human Rights Watch makes no claims about the scale of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse by teachers in secondary schools across all of Senegal. Based on our research and findings, we note that issues raised in this report are underreported and the scale of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse of female and male students is unknown. Reporting on sexual abuse against girls and young women is greatly affected by deeply entrenched taboos and stigma associated with both talking about, and coming forward to report, any form of sexual abuse committed against girls. The issue is also compounded by the lack of confidential reporting mechanisms.

However, evidence suggests that many girls and young women are affected by school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse. Our findings on these particular abuses are consistent with evidence gathered by the government, UN agencies and national and international organizations, which shows that these abuses occur in the regions where we conducted research, as well as in other parts of the country.

For protection reasons, names of children and young women used in the report are pseudonyms. Focus group discussions are referenced by location, and not by school, to further protect those interviewed. Some teachers and senior school officials are referred to anonymously to protect their identity where information provided could result in retaliation by perpetrators, other school officials or local government authorities. Also, for protection reasons we do not specify exact locations of children or alleged perpetrators.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed local and national government officials at the Ministry of National Education; the Ministry of Health and Social Action; and the Ministry of Youth, Employment and Citizen Building, as well as 4 village chiefs, 15 school staff, including principals, school supervisors (“surveillants”) and teachers, and over 40 NGO representatives, including those focused on education, child rights, sexual and reproductive health, and youth empowerment. We also interviewed mental health experts and practitioners, and development partners.

Human Rights Watch did not provide interviewees with financial compensation in exchange for an interview.

We reviewed Senegalese national law, government policies and reports, donor progress reports, government submissions to United Nations bodies, UN reports, NGO reports, academic articles, newspaper articles, and social media discussions, among others. The report’s recommendations were informed by global evidence-based guidance from the Global Working Group to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence.

The exchange rate at the time of the research was approximately US$1 = 530 Central African Francs (FCFA); this rate has been used for conversions in the text, which have sometimes been rounded to the nearest dollar.

Terminology

In this report, the term “child” refers to anyone under the age of 18, consistent with usage in international law. The term “adolescent” is used to describe children and young adults from ages 10 to 19.[1]

Lower secondary education refers to the first four years of compulsory secondary education in “middle” schools, referred to in the report as 6eme, 5eme, 4eme and 3eme. Upper secondary education refers to the final two years of secondary education in “high schools” or “lycée,” which are not compulsory in Senegal.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “gender-based violence is considered to be any harmful act directed against individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their gender. It may include sexual violence, domestic violence … forced/early marriage and harmful traditional practices.”[2]

Human Rights Watch uses the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of sexual violence as “[a]ny sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting.”[3]

WHO defines sexual exploitation as “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, threatening or profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.”[4]

 

I. Background

Sexual and gender-based violence against girls and women remains a widespread and pervasive problem in Senegal.[5] From a young age, girls face multiple sociocultural barriers and harmful practices that impact on many of their rights, including their right to education.[6]

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern over Senegal’s low enrolment rates of children, especially girls, in all levels of education, owing to early marriage, parents’ preference for educating boys, and teenage pregnancy.[7]

The government, together with international development partners, has acknowledged and taken some important steps to tackle the country’s high level of violence against women and girls and the barriers to education. It has launched multiple national awareness campaigns, women’s empowerment and girls’ education initiatives, and various policy initiatives.[8]

In 1995, Senegal kicked-off its efforts in girls’ education through the Girls’ Schooling (Scolarisation des Filles or SCOFI) project with the aim of mainstreaming gender-specific policies within the Ministry of National Education, focusing on girls’ needs in schools, and reviewing harmful stereotypes embedded in curriculum and teaching, among others.[9] With the support of donors, including the UN, the government also established a national committee of teachers to promote girls’ education (CNEP-SCOFI). Teachers have been instrumental in its roll-out, although this has largely happened through teachers’ own initiatives to organize campaigns locally, and find money from private sources to distribute school materials, uniforms, and items needed for the poorest families.[10]

Many other time-bound initiatives have followed since then, leading the government to set up a coordinating mechanism on girls’ education.[11] Multiple donor countries, including the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom, as well as multilateral donors like the World Bank, have supported the government’s efforts by funding small-scale, gender-specific programs aimed primarily at improving the quality of education, and increasing girls’ enrollment and retention. [12]

As a UN member state, the government has also endorsed major global sustainable development commitments to ensure free quality primary and secondary education to all children, eliminate gender disparities in education, end child marriage, and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services.[13] In 2016, Senegal also launched the African Union’s campaign to end child marriage.[14] As part of this campaign, the government committed to raise the age of marriage for girls to 18.[15]

But while these government efforts have helped increase girls’ access to education, they have failed to protect girls in and out of school from a wide range of human rights abuses.

Key Issues Holding Girls’ Education Back

Poverty, child marriage, teenage pregnancies, sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers and students, and violence in school are among the main factors that prevent girls from completing their secondary education.

Low Secondary School Enrollment and Lack of Inclusion

In Senegal, primary and lower-secondary education is, in theory, free and compulsory for all girls and boys age 6 to 16.[16] In practice, secondary school students may be required to pay close to 40,000 FCFA (US$75) in tuition fees, furniture costs and extra tuition for afternoon classes.[17]

However, in 2013, the last year for which official statistics were publicly available at time of writing, approximately 1.5 million children aged 7 – 16, representing 47 percent of children of primary and lower-secondary school going age, were not in formal education.[18] Government statistics show that there is near gender parity in secondary school enrollment, albeit stemming from a very low net enrolment rate: only 32 percent of girls and 35 percent of boys were enrolled in secondary school between 2008 and 2012.[19]

In rural areas –which generally have higher out of school rates—the government has focused on reducing the distance from homes to school by building more “community” middle schools. This has led to a significant reduction in the time children spend walking or getting to school, and in some cases, helped parents feel more comfortable with sending girls to school.[20]

While government statistics do not provide an accurate picture of how many children with disabilities live in the country, they do show that the majority of children with disabilities are out of school in Senegal. The government estimates that close to 17,000 girls and 19,000 boys with mild to severe disabilities, age 7 – 16, are out of school.[21]

Child Marriage, Unwanted Pregnancies and Lack of Contraceptives

In Senegal, as girls reach puberty and adolescence, they are often already married. Nearly one in three girls is married before turning 18.[22] In 2010, more than nine percent of girls were married by age 15.[23]

Girls have little access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraceptives, and teenage pregnancy frequently ends a girl’s schooling. One in ten girls and one in twenty boys age 15-24 had their first sexual encounter before they were 15 years old.[24]

Teenage pregnancy rates remain very high across the country, with higher concentrations in the southern regions of Senegal, as well as Dakar.[25] Eight percent of girls aged 15 to 19 have already given birth.[26] Use of modern contraception remains weak: only 20 percent of adolescents who have sexual relations report using these methods. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy sexual and reproductive health and rights organization, only 25 percent of sexually active unmarried Senegalese women were using a modern method of contraception.[27] Although abortion is illegal, except in very restrictive conditions to save a pregnant woman’s life, an estimated 24 percent of unintended pregnancies, including among girls, end in induced abortions. In most cases, clandestine abortions are conducted by untrained providers.[28]

According to a study conducted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Groupe pour L’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population (GEEP), a national education research organization, at least 1971 cases of pregnancies were registered in schools from 2011 to 2014.[29] Comprehensive, accurate statistics on teenage pregnancies in schools are not available, due in part to the lack of an information system to record cases.[30]

In 2007, the government adopted a “re-entry” policy for young mothers, overturning its previous position to expel pregnant girls from school. The policy stipulates that girls will be suspended from school until delivery and can go back upon presentation of a medical certificate stating they are physically able to resume their studies.[31] Despite this positive accommodation, many girls do not return to school as they lack financial and family support. According to the joint UNFPA-GEEP study, more than 54 percent of young mothers dropped out of school between 2011 and 2014. Fifteen percent of young mothers resumed their education in that same period.[32]

School-Related Sexual and Gender Based Violence

Although the scale of sexual abuse against students is unknown, evidence collected by nongovernmental organizations, UN agencies and academics suggests that school-related sexual and gender-based violence –which includes rape, sexual exploitation and harassment—is a serious problem in the education system. [33]

In 2012, the government recognized the prevalence of school-related sexual and gender-based violence, and that girls are the main victims of sexual violence in school.[34] A government study on violence against children in schools primarily conducted in four regions—including Kolda and Ziguinchor where Human Rights Watch conducted research—showed that sexual exploitation, harassment and rape were prevalent: 37 percent of 731 girls declared being affected by school-related sexual harassment, 13 percent were affected by pedophilia, which includes any gesture, touching, or caressing for sexual purposes on children under 16.[35] Nearly 14 percent of those surveyed reported rape. The study revealed that in 42 percent of cases reported, teachers were the first perpetrators of these crimes.[36]

According to the joint UNFPA-GEEP study cited previously most school-related teenage pregnancies recorded between 2011 – 2014 were as a result of sexual relationships with fellow students.[37] Notwithstanding this finding, the study also shows that girls are victims of sexual abuse, or are pressured into sexual relationships, by their peers or adults –teachers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers—who exploit their vulnerability, and their inability to negotiate protected sex.[38]

In 2015, a UN expert body on women’s rights expressed “profound concern at the level of sexual violence to which girls are subjected [in Senegal], particularly at school, which is often followed by early pregnancy.”[39]

 

II. Senegal’s Legal and Policy Framework on Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse

Senegalese legislation does not specifically stipulate a minimum age for sexual consent.[40] The country’s Penal Code does not include a specific criminal offense for anyone who has sexual relations with children under 18. Most sexual offenses cover acts of sexual abuse of children under 16.

Senegal’s penal code narrowly defines rape as “any act of sexual penetration [of any kind] … committed against a person through violence, coercion, threat or surprise.”[41] Rape is punished with five to ten years imprisonment. Rape or attempted rape of a child under 13 years of age, or a person who is particularly vulnerable because of pregnancy, advanced age or health condition leading to a physical or mental disability, carries the maximum sentence.[42]

Molesting a child under 13 years of age carries a sentence of two to five years imprisonment.[43] The penal code also criminalizes “harassing others by using orders, gestures, threats, words, writings or restraints in order to obtain favors of a sexual nature by a person who abuses the authority conferred on him or her.” If a victim is under 16, a perpetrator can be imprisoned for three years.[44] Moreover, acts constituting pedophilia –a crime under Senegalese law—are defined as “any gesture, touching, caressing, pornographic manipulation, use of images or sounds… for sexual purposes on a child under 16 of either sex.” [45]

If any acts of a sexual nature, or attempts to act, are perpetrated by an adult who has “authority over the minor,” those “responsible for their education,” or state officials, among others, the perpetrator will be imprisoned for 10 years.[46]

The penal code does not include a specific offense for omitting to report a sexual offense committed against a child. However, not reporting a crime listed in the penal code, particularly where reporting it could prevent further offenses, is subject to a sentence of up to three years, or a fine of up to 1 million FCFA (Us$1,887).[47]

Teachers’ Ethical Responsibilities

Senegal lacks a binding national code of conduct that outlines the obligations of teachers, school officials and education actors vis-à-vis students.[48] Schools are expected to define their own regulations around student and teacher discipline, but the Ministry of National Education does not provide parameters to shape the content of these regulations.[49]

The teachers’ professional and ethical code – an oath sworn by all members of the teaching profession - is the only non-binding document that stipulates teachers’ commitments toward their profession, students and society, among other groups. Teachers pledge to protect students from any form of sexual abuse, and to avoid any form of verbal abuse, particularly discriminatory language, frustration or stigma.[50]

Once they are certified to teach, teachers also swear by an oath that includes the following commitments to protect their students:

I forbid myself to voluntarily be a cause of wrong or corruption or any seduction with regard to students, girls or boys ... I pledge to protect girls and boys against all forms of abuse ... I swear never to use my authority over students for sexual purposes ...[51]

In addition, they pledge that “my position in school gives me a special responsibility in the education and training, of girls and boys, [and] their protection against any form of aggression, including sexual remarks or attitudes.”[52]

 

III. Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse by Teachers in Schools

There are teachers who tell you “go out with me, I am going to give you resources.”
—Amy, 17, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 2017

Different forms of sexual violence remain pervasive in secondary schools in Senegal.[53] Human Rights Watch found that school-related sexual exploitation and harassment by teachers is a significant, yet oft underreported problem in secondary schools. [54] Students are particularly vulnerable to these abuses on the way to school, around teachers’ homes, as well as during students’ evening gatherings, which are sometimes organized on school premises.[55]

Teachers abuse their position of authority when they approach their students for sex, in violation of their professional ethics, and in some cases, when girls are younger than 16 years old, under Senegalese law.

In some of the areas where Human Rights Watch conducted research, the low retention rate of girls appears to be closely linked to fear that girls will be exposed to sexual harassment and gender-based violence in school, or that girls will be at high risk of pregnancy because of the school environment.[56]

Overview

Human Rights Watch found that some teachers and school staff have sexual relationships with female students, many of whom are children at the time this happened. Six girls and young women told Human Rights Watch that they had suffered sexual exploitation, harassment, or abuse in the school context. A further 10 girls and young women provided information on cases of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse of friends or relatives.

Although Human Rights Watch makes no claims about the scale of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse by teachers in secondary schools across all of Senegal, the evidence we obtained in the regions where we conducted research suggests that taboos and social stigmas have silenced many girls and young women who are affected by school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse. The findings in the following sections are consistent with evidence gathered by the government, UN agencies and national and international organizations, which show that school-related sexual and gender-based violence is a serious problem in the education system, and that these abuses take place in the regions where we conducted the research, as well as in other parts of the country.[57]

Some of the cases included in this section were, according to evidence gathered in schools and communities, most often characterized by students—and to a certain extent, teachers and school officials—as “relationships” between teachers and students. Human Rights Watch believes that such characterization can undermine the gravity of the abuse, affect reporting of such abuses, and blur school officials’ perception of the severity of these abuses.

In recent years, some teachers have been prosecuted for raping or sexually abusing students. Although these prosecutions have conveyed a strong message that sexual abuse against children will be punished severely, many other abuses—notably sexual exploitation by teachers—go unpunished.

Unsafe Way to School

Sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse of students also happen regularly as girls and young women are in transit to and from school. Students are exposed to a variety of risks: harassment and sexual exploitation from commercial motorcycle drivers–colloquially known as “Jakarta men”—who transport students to schools, shopkeepers or other adults who come in contact with children, as well as harassment–and in a small number of cases, rape—by military personnel stationed in checkpoints close to schools.[58]

In cases documented by Human Rights Watch, drivers offered girls—who often travel long distances to school and cannot pay for transport—rides for sex. Most motorcycle drivers are adult men, although some older boys who have dropped out of school prematurely also join the motor taxi sector. [59]

 

Teachers’ Abuse of Power

If you refuse [him], he gives you really bad grades or he fails you.
—Kodda, 17, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 2017

All school principals interviewed by Human Rights Watch condemned sexual abuse or harassment against students, and most did not openly acknowledge any contemporary cases of sexual harassment in their schools. Yet, based on individual interviews and group discussions with students in five schools, Human Rights Watch found that some teachers are engaging in “relationships” with students in those schools – which, in many cases, would constitute sexual offenses—and students are regularly exposed to sexual harassment and unwarranted sexual overtones by teachers.

Several students described to Human Rights Watch how teachers attempted to exploit or coerce female students, offering them money, better grades, food or items such as mobile phones and new clothes.[60] The government’s study on sexual and gender-based violence in schools, quoted in a previous section, shows that the girls surveyed reported that they experience coercion “like a grave and recurring form of violence.”[61]

In at least three instances documented by Human Rights Watch, teachers approached their students by demanding a favor or requesting their phone numbers in private. According to Maïmouna, 16, who lives in Medina Yoro Foulah, “Teachers take students numbers and call them at night.” In her case, her French teacher sent her to get water for him, and then asked her to take it to his room in the school: “But after, he met me there and asked for my phone number.” Maïmouna refused.[62]

A school principal in Sédhiou told Human Rights Watch how one of the teachers in his former school in rural Sédhiou harassed a student. He investigated the case because the student’s mother threatened the teacher with legal action: “[It was about] a child in the 5eme year – she was 13 or 14. I called them [teacher and student] and she told me everything. In that case, the student’s mother filed a report [with the principal] … she said it had to stop or they would meet in the tribunals. So, this was severe. It was a case of harassment and coercion… [the teacher] used to say ‘I’ll see you at home.’ Really, it was fishy. He said: ‘if you don’t love me … I will give you zero [in exams]’ [and] ‘I called you, you gave me your number, and you haven’t called me’.”[63]

Some students also told Human Rights Watch they feel pressured to obtain good grades in the “Brevet de fin d’études moyennes,” an exam that allows students to proceed to high school, and the “Baccalaureate” exam, at the very end of high school. According to some students, it is very difficult to pass these exams, and many will end up re-sitting the year in order to obtain a better grade.[64] As a result, girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation in the academic year leading up to the exam.

The frequent phenomenon of sexual exploitation for grades is often colloquially referred to as sexually transmitted grades (“notes sexuellement transmissibles” in French), and, according to nongovernmental groups and media reports, it happens in both urban and rural areas.[65]

Hawa, 17, who is a member of the young female leaders group in her school in Sédhiou, finds that “relationships” for grades are commonplace in her school. She told Human Rights Watch: “Teachers tell you ‘If you have a relationship with me, I can ensure you will be the best one in the class.’” Hawa’s close friend was sexually harassed by a teacher when they were 15 years old, in the 5eme year of lower secondary school. He offered her better grades and support to help her mother, but Hawa’s friend refused. The same teacher has allegedly also approached two other girls in Hawa’s class.[66]

In four cases, girls told Human Rights Watch they felt teachers graded them badly, ignored them in class or did not let them participate when they turned down their sexual advances.[67]

Aïssatou, 16, from Sédhiou, said:

One day, he [the teacher] asked me to go to his house. When I went to his house, he offered to give me money and resources. And I told him no… because when they tell you that, they’re going to impregnate you and will leave you on your own. I was a bit stressed. It was in his house. He became nasty, [he said] he was not going to give me good grades.[68]

After a series of bad grades, Aïssatou decided to speak to her principal who, in turn spoke to the teacher about the allegations. According to Aïssatou, even though her teacher denied the allegations, the teacher’s advances stopped, and she did not experience any retaliation, after the principal’s intervention. She was not aware of any further disciplinary action against the teacher beyond this discussion. The same teacher sexually exploited at least one other girl including one of her friends: “He ended up impregnating her. The teacher is still there, but he goes out with other girls,” Aïssatou said.[69] She was not aware of disciplinary or judicial sanction taken against him.

Cases of Sexual Exploitation by Teachers

Human Rights Watch documented 10 cases of sexual exploitation and abuses in the context of “relationships” between teachers and students, most of whom were 15 and 16 years old when the abuse took place. Various girls and young women referred to teachers who have had multiple “relationships” with students during their placement at the school.[70] The “relationships” were largely known by teachers and some principals, but disciplinary actions were not taken in most cases.

Fanta, now 23, from a village in Sédhiou region, had “a relationship” with her 30-year-old teacher for nearly two years, which started when she was 16 years old and resulted in a pregnancy that ended her education:

I was in his class … it was always hidden. The teacher had given me an exercise to complete at his house. After that, we were like this [together]. We would meet at his house. Some teachers knew about it, but they said nothing. I felt ashamed in class … my classmates knew I was going out with him. [71]

In a middle school in Sédhiou, at least two girls referred to cases of teachers who had made students pregnant. Aïcha, 15, who is in the final year of middle school, told Human Rights Watch: “We have a lot of problems as girls … there are teachers who approach young girls.” She told Human Rights Watch a teacher had “a relationship” with one of her classmates:

A teacher is in prison because of that … since last year, 2016. He went out with a girl in secret. She was 16 years old. After that, she became pregnant. He has refused to accept that it was him. When the girl had the baby [they] did a DNA test and [they] imprisoned the teacher. The girl's parents brought a claim [against the teacher] … The girl is not at school, she stays at home.[72]

Penda, 17, who studies in the same school in Sédhiou, also told Human Rights Watch her friend had a “relationship” with her mathematics teacher when she was 15 in the 4eme and 3eme year of middle school. Her friend moved to a private school, and the relationship ended there. But according to Penda, the teacher, who lives in her neighborhood, has had “relationships” with other girls in her school, one of whom was 16.[73]

Maïmouna, quoted previously, told Human Rights Watch that her friend, who was 14 at the time, had a secret “relationship” with a teacher. The teacher used to call her and visit her at night. “He used to see her often, during two years. The teacher gave her money, and she used to hide this [the relationship] from her family.”[74]

Relations between teachers and underage students remain unlawful regardless of a student’s age or her consent to engage in sexual relations with a teacher. When a student is under 16, these so-called “relationships” constitute rape under Senegal’s penal law. However, teachers and school officials – all of whom are in a position of authority—could also be found guilty of sexual offenses against a child carrying the maximum penalty of 10 years.[75]

Teachers also engage in “relationships” between students who are older than 18. According to one school principal, teachers who are as young as 22 or 23 during their first placement may have fewer qualms with dating students who are slightly younger than them.[76] Although relationships with students over 18 are not illegal or qualify as a sexual offense against a child under Senegalese law, they may well be unethical and exploitative, and a violation of a teacher’s ethical obligations.

Sexual exploitation occurs when teachers abuse their position to exert undue power on students they teach, influence or appear to have power or control over. This breaches a teachers’ duty of care, and ethical responsibilities toward their students. School officials should not tolerate any instances where teachers or school officials abuse their power for sexual purposes. They should enforce a policy that prohibits “relationships” between teachers and school officials –who exert power and authority—and students in school and outside school.

Unwarranted Sexual Overtones and Inappropriate Behavior in Schools

Teachers’ inappropriate advances or proposals affect the learning environment, and make some female students feel wary about their teachers. Some teachers use inappropriate language or gestures when talking to female students or referring to other students in their class.[77] Some of these acts can constitute the sexual offense of sexual harassment, and are in clear violation of teacher’s ethical obligations.[78]

In the village of Ounck, in rural Ziguinchor, Aïssatou, 16, told Human Rights Watch she felt uncomfortable when her teacher approached her at the beginning of the school year: “He told me, ‘what’s your name? where are you from? I like you a lot.’ I told him ‘I don’t like you. I don’t go out with teachers.”[79] Similarly, Nafissatou, 17, who lives in the neighboring village of Congoly said: “The teachers tell [us] ‘I love you’ often … there are teachers who have relationships to get married, and others to ruin you.”[80]

Soukeyna, now 20, recalled her unwelcome encounter with her teacher in middle school: “One day, he called for me and talked to me about my studies. All of a sudden, he told me he would be happy if I became his third wife.” Although the teacher did not pursue her further, his proposal had a strong impact on Soukeyna’s trust in teachers: “It’s something that really affected me. I was used to having a good relationship with my teachers. Psychologically, it affected me.”[81]

At least three girls reported being smacked on their buttocks.[82] Amy, 14, from Ounck, said that one of their teachers smacked her buttocks with his hand: “Girls don’t say anything… [but] this is not good. We don’t want them to hit us or touch us.”[83]

To avoid a bad experience at school, some girls told Human Rights Watch they “protected” themselves by becoming distant with teachers. Students appeared to feel maintaining appropriate boundaries with their teachers was their own responsibility. Many students said that they did not give teachers opportunities by not “provoking” or “tempting” them.[84] In particular, they avoided going to the teachers’ room, did not search for teachers outside classroom time, and dressed modestly to avoid attracting a teacher’s attention.[85]

In some interviews and group discussions, girls said students’ choice of outfits are to blame for unnecessary attention from teachers.[86] For example, in one group discussion at a middle school in Sédhiou, girls felt that an important way to avoid having problems, was to avoid using any “sexy outfits, [not] show your breasts… so that you [don’t] tell men you are ready.”[87] This type of damaging message, which places the burden and blame on girls for teachers’ actions, is often propagated by teachers, school officials and parents.[88]

Tackling the stereotypes that make girls feel that they are guilty for provoking sexual exploitation and abuses committed against them should be a top priority, according to Ndèye Fatou Faye, a psychologist at the Centre Guidance Infantile et Familiale in Dakar. Faye believes that schools and communities should stop blaming girls for exploitation, focus more on training teachers on their professional responsibilities, on ways to prevent sexual violence, and on how to recognize telling signs that children are suffering sexual abuse.[89]

With a view to ending the culture of silence around school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, as well as abuses by other peers and adults, the government should support a public education campaign directed at students and young people. The campaign should be developed in consultation with young people, and should cover what constitutes unacceptable behavior by teachers and adults with authority over students, ways to raise concerns and report abuses, and mechanisms to report these confidentially.  

 

IV. Limited Progress on Tackling Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse in Schools

If girls accuse a teacher [of harassment], and tell the principal, the teacher will deny it. Girls are afraid of denouncing – they [the administration and the teachers] can even destroy our career.
—Penda, 17, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017

Although prosecutions for school-related rape have occurred, Human Rights Watch’s evidence suggests that prosecution or redress for sexual exploitation or harassment has been rare. The reporting system is generally weak, as victims of abuses are reluctant to report cases within schools. Human Rights Watch also found that education officials often do not act on or report to their own supervisors cases of sexual exploitation or harassment that have been brought to their attention.

At the school level, senior school officials do not appear to take action to tackle or prevent all prevalent forms of sexual exploitation—such as inappropriate advances or “relationships” between students and teachers—which in some cases, constitute sexual offenses.

In Senegal, talking about sexual harassment is considered a taboo topic for girls and women alike.[90] In many cases, girls affected do not report sexual abuse. As a result, young survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence, and those affected by exploitation, rarely see their cases to court and perpetrators punished. Girls’ also rarely get access to appropriate health services or the police.[91]

Rape Prosecutions

Since the late 2000’s, the local media has consistently reported the trials of teachers charged with sexual offenses of rape and acts of pedophilia linked to school, prompting widespread concern that students were exposed to school-related sexual violence.[92] Human Rights Watch is concerned about how often these reports reveal the exact identity of young survivors of rape, their location, and the details of the offense.[93] According to Seckou Balde, head of psychiatric health at Kolda’s health centre, the lack of protection of the survivor’s identity and the negative portrayal of survivors in the media deter young survivors from coming forward with cases.[94]

Captions:
(1) “Rape” The general supervisor [name redacted by Human Rights Watch] … accused of rape of a 17-year-old student.
(2) “My teacher asked me to sleep with him, at risk of keeping his French grades” – A young 16-year-old teacher is a victim of rape followed by pregnancy.
(3) Accused of rape, the teacher insists: “the underwear was used as a rag.”

© 2018 Human Rights Watch

Government officials who spoke with Human Rights Watch believe that cases of school-related rape by teachers have diminished overall, due in part to a steady number of prosecutions of teachers, and an increase in child protection mechanisms at the local level.[95] Yet, this might be based on a perception: legal experts and government officials who spoke with Human Rights Watch were only aware of a handful of prosecutions of teachers or school staff for rape.[96]

In Dakar, the local media has reported at least 14 school-related rape trials since 2013, and over 10 in Kolda, Sédhiou, and other parts of the country.[97] Human Rights Watch learned, through interviews, of at least seven prosecutions in Dakar, and the regions of Kolda and Ziguinchor. For example, in Medina Yoro Foulah, the northernmost region in Kolda, a teacher was sentenced to four years imprisonment for raping a 12-year-old student in his office at the school in 2014.[98] In Ziguinchor, a teacher was prosecuted for raping a 16-year-old student in school.[99]

While these prosecutions have sent a signal that rape by teachers is intolerable, sexual exploitation and harassment continue to be serious problems.

Limited Accountability and Action Against Perpetrators of Sexual Exploitation and Harassment

Human Rights Watch evidence suggests that teachers who have sexually exploited students in the context of “relationships” usually do not face serious legal sanction or professional sanction. Their behavior is sometimes tolerated or at most, they are reprimanded or warned by their peers or the principal, with no further consequences. Repeat offenders, such as teachers who sexually exploit more than one student during their tenure at the school, attests to the impunity they appear to enjoy.[100]

In a middle school in Sédhiou, where several students reported experiencing sexual harassment by teachers, a senior teacher told Human Rights Watch that one of his colleagues had “gone out” with three students. The teacher said: “In this school, there are teachers who run towards their students. Last year, there were three girls in this school [targeted by one of the youngest teachers] – one of the girls, her parents were aware, and they complained.” Although the former principal admonished this teacher, he still teaches at the school.[101]

The teacher who abused Fanta and made her pregnant, mentioned in a previous section, continues to teach at the local middle school in a village in the Sédhiou region.[102] Fanta’s father spoke with the principal, but the school did not conduct an investigation.[103]

Hawa Kandé, gender focal point at the education inspectorate in Kolda region, told Human Rights Watch that even though reporting sexual abuse is anonymous, “relationships [between teachers and students] are so commonplace, they [teachers] have trivialized them.”[104]

Several people reported cases of teachers marrying their students including in cases where girls are impregnated by their teachers.[105] In some cases the families negotiated an informal financial settlement to cover the cost of antenatal and health checks for a girl during pregnancy and a basic stipend.[106]

For example, Koumba Ndiaye, a women’s advocate in Medina Yoro Foulah, a small town close to the border with The Gambia, in 2011 mediated the process of a girl who was sexually abused by her teacher, in the context of a “relationship,”: “She was 16. The teacher financed her, [gave her] a mobile phone … once she fell pregnant, her father kicked her out of her house.” Ndiaye described how she negotiated with the teacher so that he would pay the expenses for the birth and baby’s maintenance. As part of this negotiation, Ndiaye demanded that the teacher request a relocation to a different region. Neither Ndiaye nor the girl’s family filed a complaint against the teacher to police.[107]

Community Pressure to Avoid Proceedings

In most small towns and villages where Human Rights Watch conducted research, families frequently resolved cases of rape, sexual exploitation, and violence without involving either the judiciary or school, that is, within their home or community. Often, when parents find out that a girl or young woman is pregnant outside marriage, they prefer to settle conditions with the baby’s father, or arrange a marriage between them.[108] This is commonly referred to as “maslaha” and “jokere endam” meaning “in the common interest” in Wolof and “preserving kinship” or “good neighborhood” in Pulaar language, respectively.[109]

Mariama Barry, a local advocate leading a local women’s brigade to end violence against women in Kolda, told Human Rights Watch: “They [young girls] are really scared to speak about sexual violence … people don’t have a habit of denouncing and talking about their problems.” Barry told Human Rights Watch that many mothers warn their daughters to not talk about any such incidents: “It’s what troubles the community – if you take someone to court, you will be isolated.”[110]

Some communities afford teachers and school officials, who are very often posted from other parts of Senegal, special status, due to their level of education and the role they play in the community. This makes it harder to denounce any acts of exploitation or abuse perpetrated by teachers, and contributes to a culture of silence around unlawful acts that take place in schools.

When Fanta, now 23, first told her parents she was pregnant from her teacher, they expelled her from their house.[111] Fanta told Human Rights Watch she felt ashamed in her class because her classmates knew she had “a relationship” with the teacher, and the teacher denied being her child’s father.[112] Although her parents took her back, Fanta’s father told Human Rights Watch that in the village, “people look at you in a different way … our tradition really bans a girl from getting pregnant [outside marriage].”[113]

According to experts at the Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, who provide psychological support to parents and children, parents are often reluctant to report abuse and exploitation because they worry about their community’s perception. Most parents hardly ever have access to professional services or support to help them handle abuses committed against their children.[114]

School-based Efforts to Tackle Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Violence

A consistent, national strategy to end all forms of sexual violence in schools–particularly taboo issues like sexual exploitation and harassment—is missing.[115]

Secondary schools visited by Human Rights Watch have generally taken a strong stance against school-related sexual and gender-based violence as a whole, and focused on tackling financial and social barriers faced by girls in secondary school. Human Rights Watch found that this often stems from leadership and self-initiative by principals and committed teachers, rather than a national concerted effort, based on directives or regulations from the government.

National or regional efforts to prevent or reduce sexual abuse and exploitation are often closely linked to campaigns to prevent teenage pregnancies, and those aimed at empowering girls with information and providing essential items, including sanitary pads and school materials, without which many girls would face even more barriers to education.[116] Development partners, including donors and UN agencies, have largely provided financial or technical support through the Ministry of National Education’s “Coordination Framework for Interventions for Girls’ Education.”[117]

At the school level, some principals have focused on adopting a clear zero-tolerance policy toward sexual abuse or exploitation by staff in their school. For example, principal Tacko Koita, in Mpak village in Ziguinchor, regularly reminds her staff about their ethical obligations and warns her deputies and teachers about engaging in inappropriate, if not illegal, behavior with students: “As the principal, I speak to all of my deputies. They need to be warned. The law covers children who are minors. They have to know they have responsibilities. If something happens, they’ve been forewarned.”[118] Nevertheless, in spite of this warning, students who attended this middle school did report some cases of “relationships” and inappropriate behavior by their male teachers.[119]

In a school in Kolda, Lalia Mané, a middle school teacher and a member of the government’s girls’ education initiative, told Human Rights Watch that sexual harassment by teachers stopped after children went through extensive trainings on child rights and violence against children, and an observatory was put in place in the school. Mané said: “I tell my students, if there’s a teacher that asks you for favors … you must go press charges at the police station … I don’t hide it.”[120] Students at this school did not report any inappropriate advances or cases of sexual violence or exploitation during interviews with Human Rights Watch.

Some principals and school officials have also tried to adopt a compulsory school uniform policy to ensure all students are dressed according to standards set by the school administration and the parent teacher association. Unfortunately, this initiative responds to a common perception among school staff that female students’ clothes expose them to exploitation by their teachers.[121]

Dysfunctional Reporting System and Discriminatory Attitude of Principals

Child protection efforts in Senegal have historically been piecemeal, uncoordinated and under-funded.[122] In 2013, the government adopted a comprehensive national child protection strategy, aiming to establish an intricate child protection system that connects all relevant actors at the village, district, regional and national levels.[123] This new system introduced child protection committees, which were set up to bring together a range of education, judicial and local government representatives with NGOs and other actors that provide services to children affected by violence. It also aimed to strengthen coordination to prevent any forms of violence or abuse against children, and to improve reporting of child rights violations, wherever they may occur.[124]

Although the strategy is accompanied by a plan of action, the government has so far not allocated adequate resources to roll-out the strategy uniformly.[125] Human Rights Watch found a gap between this coordination mechanism and reporting at the school level, particularly around cases of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse.

According to the chief of education inspection in Vélingara, in the Casamance region, guidance for school officials is clear: every three months, school principals must send reports of any cases related to child protection issues–including on sexual and gender-based violence, as well as pregnancies and cases of female genital mutilation—to local education inspectorates.[126] The education inspectorate will in turn, report these within the education system and inform the relevant child protection committee.[127]

In theory, principals are legally obliged to report cases of rape or other criminal incidents, directly to police. They should also report other child rights violations or incidents affecting students to child protection committees. Once a case is reported to a relevant child protection committee, a range of actors, including child protection officers, police, and prosecutors, are involved in the response, which in some cases, requires adopting urgent measures to assist or protect a child.[128]

Human Rights Watch identified three key factors which undermined the consistent reporting of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse against students by their teachers and other school staff: cultural perceptions that girls and young women are responsible for their teachers’ advances; a concern over losing teachers given the deficient number in especially rural areas; and the lack of clarity on what comprises sexual exploitation.

Barriers to Reporting at the School Level

A principal wants to protect his staff. Teachers can have lots of problems… You have to talk to him so that he stops. [If not], he risks ten years in prison.
—School principal, Kolda region, October 2017

Human Rights Watch found that principals generally wield great influence over whether or not cases of sexual exploitation, harassment, or abuse in schools were reported to police or education inspectorates. Several principals told Human Rights Watch they prefer to address any incidents of exploitation or abuse within school walls in order to protect their staff, and prevent scrutiny from education inspectorates.

School principals and teachers are not immune to the bias nor the community’s approach to dealing with cases of abuse. Part of the problem with reporting is the principal’s bias, as well as a lack of definition of sexual exploitation in school guidelines, and a prevalent culture of blaming girls.

Some principals told Human Rights Watch that they did not report cases because they did not fully trust students’ allegations of sexual misconduct by their staff.[129] Some principals and school staff also talked about students’ volatile adolescent behavior, students’ desire to attract attention, and the way some students “tempted” their teachers by wearing tighter or shorter clothes.[130]

According to a former school principal interviewed in Dakar:

Girls have their periods, they are mature girls. [There are] girls who provoke [their teachers] or teachers who are practically from the same generation as girls … the risk is very big. Girls go see their teachers with the excuse of learning at the teachers’ house.[131]

Yet, several education staff said they are reluctant to report teachers out of concern for losing already limited staff and suffering reputational damage.[132] A school principal in a village in the Kolda region explained:

If a girl has been harassed, we call the teacher. We try to listen to him, and we investigate. We don’t call the departmental committee for child protection … if you call them, the teacher will face problems. We try to solve this amicably. [133]

Human Rights Watch did not find evidence of a specific legal obligation for principals and senior school officials to report criminal sexual offense to the police.

Beyond the principal, many schools have staff members and structures tasked with monitoring and reporting on child protection concerns in schools. Some school staff members are part of local child protection committees, part of the national committee of teachers to promote girls’ education (CNEP-SCOFI), or take part in an informal school observatory made up of students, teachers and school administrative officials to monitor vulnerable students and students at risk of dropping out of school.[134]

Some of the bigger secondary schools visited by Human Rights Watch have a hierarchy in reporting child protection concerns. Education or administrative staff must be informed of a problem first, prior to taking up a complaint or allegation to the principal’s level. In a school with more than 1000 students in Sédhiou, a principal told Human Rights Watch that usually the school supervisors (“surveillants”) or the lead teacher for every grade finds out first, and then assesses whether they need to inform him.[135] This hierarchy could constitute an additional barrier to reporting.

Even when teachers want to report harmful or unlawful behavior, some may feel they cannot for fear of accusing fellow teachers knowing the consequences they may face.[136] A middle school teacher in Kolda region told Human Rights Watch: “We are aware of some violence, but we do not dare denounce it.”[137]

Senior school officials should be obliged to conduct investigations following any allegations of misconduct and, where a criminal law appears to have been violated, refer alleged perpetrators to the police. The Ministry of National Education should issue a directive outlining school officials’ legal duty to report any incidents or allegations.

Principals must also be given comprehensive trainings on how to conduct initial investigations adequately and fairly, and where appropriate or needed due to the type of offense, report cases to higher education authorities, or immediately to the police. Those who fail to do so should be subject to disciplinary proceedings themselves, and if their behavior amounts to an obstruction of justice, criminal prosecution.

Deterrents and Barriers to Reporting Faced by Students

Human Rights Watch found that many students were reluctant to report sexual abuse and exploitation by school staff as a result of their limited understanding of what constitutes a sexual offense and unlawful behavior, unclear reporting system, and barriers to reporting, including the lack of confidentiality.

Many students do not fully understand what sexual offenses are, nor the full extent of avenues to report these offenses whenever they occur. This remains a fundamental problem in identifying the full extent of school-related SGBV. For example, a consultation with over 500 students in Dakar, led by the Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, found that while students understand that rape is a crime and are inclined to report it, they would not recognize sexual touching, harassment, or attempted rape, as sexual abuse.[138] Human Rights Watch found that many students have normalized the reality of “relationships” in the school context, and although many identified it as something that was wrong, they did not perceive it as sexual exploitation. Schools should ensure students have a better understanding of what constitutes sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse so that they can identify and report them.[139]

Girls and young women who have been harassed, exploited or abused by teachers, or other adults, have limited options to confidentially report an incident.

Some students told Human Rights Watch they would not seek help from their principals or teachers because they felt their claims would be dismissed. Some of the girls who spoke to Human Rights Watch about an abuse they suffered or a close friend’s case said they often share their experiences with friends, and take advice from them. Psychologists at the Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale in Dakar told Human Rights Watch that children often do not want to report abuse by an authority figure.[140]

However, there are a number of other obstacles too. In order to report rape at a police station, survivors must present a medical certificate.[141] Reporting a rape thus becomes a financial barrier for some young survivors. Although medical certificates can be obtained for free when attending drop-in support centers, a rape survivor has to pay around 10,000 Francs CFA ($19) in order to obtain one if she does not have a referral.[142]

In urban areas, well-known organizations like the Association des Juristes Sénégalaises, a national organization led by female lawyers, or the International Planned Parenthood’s Senegal chapter, the Association pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ASBEF), support survivors with access to judicial services and assistance. Children can also go to the Ministry of Justice’s child-focused legal assistance agency, the AEMO, which supports children through judicial processes.[143]

To ensure students actually report any incidents, the government needs to also tackle the stereotypes that make girls feel that they are responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse committed against them. In addition to providing trainings and workshops for teachers and students, the government should also embed gender issues in its long over-due curriculum on sexual and reproductive health education. The government should make reporting more accessible and confidential for all students –whether in the form of a trained designated teacher who lodges complaints confidentially, or a confidential reporting line into the relevant child protection committee.

Problems with Inspectorates and Child Protection Committees

Members of child protection committees in Ziguinchor and Vélingara consulted by Human Rights Watch lacked exact numbers of convictions of teachers for sexual abuse or of how many school-related cases have been reported to the committees.[144]

Within the education system, data gathering depends on what schools report to local or regional inspectorates, and what inspectorates do with that information. For example, the regional education inspectorate in Kolda had not compiled data on sexual and gender-based violence and exploitation in schools for the whole region.[145] At the sub-regional level, some data existed: In Vélingara, the head of inspection for this eastern region of Kolda, told Human Rights Watch he received 62 complaints or allegations of teenage pregnancies, and some cases of sexual harassment, during the 2016-2017 academic year, by students and adults who targeted girls close to school, or while they were on their way to school.[146] This inspector noted that when schools report abuse to local inspectorates, they do not always provide details of the perpetrator’s profile.[147]

Senior school officials also encounter problems with some inspectorates. In one case, a middle school principal in the outskirts of the town of Kolda told Human Rights Watch he had been let down by inspectors: “If there is a problem, you have to inform the next level. But that’s where things are hidden … they are the ones who don’t report this at the level of the inspectorate.”[148] The principal filed a letter of complaint for sexual abuses committed against a student on the way to school, but the letter never went through the system:

I don’t work with the inspectors. If I have a problem, I’ll work it out. They are scared … its complicity. There is no follow-up [of a case]. If there’s someone who is destroying a child, I can’t let him destroy her.”[149]

The reporting system also suffers from a shortage in human resources. For example, the sub-region of Medina Yoro Foulah, in northern Kolda, has 13 middle schools, 2 high schools and 200 public schools. Yet, only one regional education officer oversees all education issues and content in this large region, including allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, drop-outs due to child marriage, and other barriers to girls’ education.[150]

These challenges affect the government’s ability to assess whether its child protection mechanism is working effectively. It also affects the accuracy of national data on the prevalence of school-related sexual and gender-based violence. All government actors should be reminded of their obligation to report any incidents affecting students. Education inspectorates should submit timely reports on cases of sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse, as well as other child rights violations, to relevant child protection committees and the Ministry of National Education.

 

Lack of Adequately Trained Teachers and Female Teachers

Senior teachers and child protection experts who spoke to Human Rights Watch blamed the lack of thorough training of new graduates for teachers’ professional misconduct.[151] The government has indeed, over nearly two decades, recruited non-qualified teachers, many of whom by-passed teacher training.[152]

According to a report of the United States aid agency’s program on safety in middle schools in Senegal in 2010, around 60 percent of middle school teachers are young men, and almost half have no pre-service training, including on counseling, on the code of conduct or on school-related sexual and gender-based violence.[153]

The government recognizes that teacher training urgently needs to focus on ethics and deontology and has criticized what it terms “the decay” in the education system.[154] The government specifies the importance of training teachers on issues related to gender, gender-based violence, HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases, but does not specify trainings on school-related child protection issues.[155] The government’s Project to Support Girls’ Education has reportedly strengthened training for all education actors on gender, including those analyzing teacher manuals to ensure they do not reinforce gender stereotypes, but does not appear to focus on sexual and gender-based violence and exploitation in schools.[156]

Saourou Sené, secretary general of one of the largest secondary teacher unions confirmed: “We have teachers who are very young and are not well trained. There are temporary teachers and those who should not be teaching … more should be done … [such as] training by the government, so that they are conscious of children’s vulnerability … we have to be models of integrity.”[157] According to Sené, the Ministry of National Education has so far not convened all teachers and unions to discuss child protection concerns in schools.[158]

Although female teachers are expected to be role models for girls, and to act as counsellors, there are not many in the secondary education system: in 2015, Senegal had 5,564 female teachers, compared with 22,165 male teachers.[159] Most female teachers tend to be based in predominantly urban areas.[160] They are not trained to be counsellors, unless they specialize in university.[161] In many rural areas, the teaching staff is made up of male teachers only.

According to education officials, part of the problem is that it is hard to attract qualified female teachers to more remote areas, as this would involve moving their families to an area with very limited services. Although the Ministry of National Education’s Human Resources guidelines prescribe a 10 percent quota of posts reserved for women in leadership positions, as well as a “gender bonus” to promote women’s access to roles with greater responsibility, the uptake remains low.[162]

To tackle sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse within the teaching profession, there is an urgent need to ensure that all teachers and school staff—whether they have been in education for a long-time, or they are the newest cohorts of teachers—undergo thorough training on sexual and gender-based violence in school. This training should equip teachers and school staff with tools to reduce students’ risk of exposure to sexual exploitation, harassment and unwanted sexual overtones, and build knowledge about the consequences of perpetrating or failing to report cases.

 

V. Lack of Sexual and Reproductive Health Education and Services

My mom would say, if you have your period, and you say hi to a boy, you’re going to get pregnant.
—Amina, 21, Guinau Rails, Dakar, August 15, 2017

In Senegal, many young people do not have adequate access to information and services on sexuality and reproduction. Knowledge of sexual and reproductive health remains low among Senegalese youth because most public secondary schools do not provide adequate and comprehensive content on sexuality or reproduction, which should include a focus on prevention of gender-based and sexual violence, and healthy sexual relationships.[163] Yet, progress toward adopting a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health curriculum has been needlessly slow, according to national and international experts.

Limited Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Education in Schools

They [the Ministry of National Education] told us that we will have a reproductive health subject … we’ve been waiting until now. We have to introduce the program in the 6eme class [the first grade of middle school]. They [girls] do not know that when they have relationships they can fall pregnant … they think their age is what determines a pregnancy.
—Principal of a middle school, Kolda, October 26, 2017

Human Rights Watch found that teachers do not always give scientifically-backed information on contraceptive methods. In particular, students are not taught about sexuality or the importance of full consent in relationships. One reason for this is absence of an adequate, robust and comprehensive curriculum on both sexual and reproductive health education (SRHE) that is considered a compulsory part of the national curriculum. Teachers also lack accompanying guidelines to teach the subject. As a result, schools and teachers can design lessons or workshops on reproduction or contraception themselves, based on their own opinions of these topics.

At time of writing, students were only taught some aspects of reproductive health in 3eme and 4eme, the last two years of middle school, through sub-topics covered in science class. A science class typically covers topics related to the human body, including the reproductive system, children’s developmental processes, including changes in adolescence, puberty, and menstruation. These classes also cover core aspects of the human life cycle, including reproduction.

Many schools also offer non-compulsory classes reproductive education and “life skills” or have permanent youth-focused clubs known as EVF clubs, or clubs for education for family life.[164] These clubs are often managed by science teachers who organize discussions about menstruation, and issues affecting youth, including drug addiction, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and teenage pregnancy.[165] The content of these classes depends on the school’s wish to focus on these topics, although schools receive suggested topics from national organizations.[166]

It also depends on who leads the club. In a middle school in Sédhiou, the rate of teenage pregnancies went down when an active female teacher led the school’s EVF club, according to the school’s principal. However, when the teacher was replaced with a male teacher, female students stopped talking to the teacher about reproduction.[167]

Abstinence is the leading message in many schools, particularly in the EVF clubs.[168] Education staff and resource people who teach in schools still largely focus the content of their discussions on abstinence and virginity prior to marriage.[169] Meta, 15, who coordinates her school’s EVF club told Human Rights Watch that she has been taught that “the best thing is to “keep one’s treasure” [virginity] until marriage.”[170]

Global scientific, sociological and human rights evidence shows that an abstinence-only curriculum leads to no visible change in adolescent sexual behaviors.[171] A heavy focus on abstinence also isolates and humiliates many adolescents who have already had sex, and who may need adequate advice to ensure they are safe and protected from abuse or from HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.[172]

In the village of Ndorna, in Kolda region, for example, school staff often ask the local midwife to conduct sessions about reproduction with girls in the village’s only secondary school. The midwife often focuses her sessions with girls on the importance of preserving their virginity for marriage.[173] Yet, Ndorna has very high rates of teenage pregnancy – most as a result of child marriage, while others are linked to sexual relationships outside marriage. According to a health volunteer, focusing on virginity only sends the wrong message that girls who have had sexual relationships, some of whom have been sexually abused, are told that they are unworthy.[174]

In Vélingara, a town with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and child marriage in Kolda region,[175] students in one of the middle schools told Human Rights Watch that their science teacher has taught them that only women who are married should use contraceptive methods. Girls are also taught that if they take the pill they will reduce their chances of ever having children once they are married.[176] The school does not promote contraceptives.[177] In one case, a student told Human Rights Watch contraceptive methods can kill babies.[178] Human Rights Watch heard similar responses from girls in other towns.

The government of Senegal has engaged in various processes to adopt a reproductive health and family planning module in the official curriculum.[179] But so far, the Ministry of National Education has excluded topics related to adolescent sexuality.[180] The ministry’s reluctance seems to stem from a concern that teaching sexuality contradicts Senegal’s cultural and moral values, as well as pressure from religious groups.[181]

A recent study of the government’s approach to reproductive health education shows that the government has omitted topics such as intimate relationships, sexual abuse, as well as comprehensive information about the sexual transmission of HIV, and communication skills to avoid sexual coercion and abuse.[182]

According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, an important response to sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies is to institute a mandatory, age appropriate curriculum on comprehensive sexuality and reproductive health education. To be effective, the curriculum should include sexual and reproductive health and rights, responsible sexual behavior, prevention of early pregnancy and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, consensual and healthy relationships, and gender equality.[183] International technical guidance by UN agencies shows that in order to be effective, children should be introduced to age-appropriate content on sexuality and reproductive health in primary school, prior to puberty.[184]

The government should adhere to its international and regional commitment and obligation to provide a comprehensive SRHE curriculum. Schools should play a key role in providing students with the information and tools to understand changes in adolescence, sexuality, and reproduction, and provide information that enables them to make informed decisions, without the pressure, stereotypes, or myths shared by their friends or communities.

Limited Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in the Community

We have to remove the taboo between young people and talk to them about sexual relationships. We sensitize young people, and they speak, but not in front of someone who is older.
—Abdul Aziz Fall, Association Protégeons L’Enfant, Dakar, June 2017

Many young Senegalese do not have adequate knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health rights.[185] Without adequate information, young people are at risk of pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Those who are already exposed to multiple forms of violence in their daily lives, are also at risk of engaging in exploitative or coercive sexual relationships.[186] Yet, their options to get good information within the community are very limited.

Fathy, a 22-year-old student whose child is two years old, told Human Rights Watch:

It tires me that we don’t have advice about sexual intercourse. There are families where parents do not talk [with their children]. We’re missing resources for our basic needs … it’s because of that that girls fall pregnant.[187]

Most of the adolescents that Human Rights Watch interviewed said it is unthinkable to ask parents for advice on relationships or sex. Khady, 25, told Human Rights Watch: “With my mom, I don’t talk about sex or child marriage … she even uses the TV or theatre to talk to us indirectly.”[188]

Child protection and adolescent health specialists interviewed by Human Rights Watch felt that the lack of communication between parents and children means many children seek information elsewhere, including misleading or wrong information from the internet or their peers.[189] It also makes children feel that they cannot talk to their parents when someone has abused them.[190]

Most students interviewed who lived in larger towns or cities told Human Rights Watch they resort to advice centers for adolescents for impartial information, confidential discussions and advice. These centers, or CCA in French, are financed by the UN Population Fund and managed by the Ministry of Youth’s division for adolescent health. However, many teenagers do not have easy access to the centers – there are only 15 government centers in 11 regions, and all are located in provincial capitals, and Dakar.[191]

According to the government, the centers aim to “promote adolescent and young people’s reproductive health … to change attitudes and behaviors for a responsible adult life.”[192] The centers aim to overcome social and cultural barriers and taboos around adolescent health and provide adolescents with confidential information, resources and preventive services on various issues, including contraception, teenage pregnancies, drugs, and protection from HIV and sexually transmitted infections.[193]

To its credit, the government has adopted a law on reproductive health, and various national strategies and action plans on adolescent reproductive health. These plans respond to an urgent need to increase access and uptake of adolescent-friendly services focused on sexual health and contraception in order to contain and reduce the high rates of HIV infection among young people, tackle the high rates of teenage pregnancy, and reduce maternal and infant mortality. [194]

Human Rights Watch visited three CCA, in Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor. Although they provide a crucial service for young people, these centers face many issues: most are staffed by men, who are mainly unpaid volunteers that do not get adequate training. They also lack full-time social or health workers, and equipment or resources to conduct STI or HIV tests. All three were housed in derelict buildings that lacked electricity at times.

Despite these circumstances, Human Rights Watch met adolescent health volunteers who dedicated their time to speaking to adolescents, visited communities to talk about adolescent health, and provided confidential advice to adolescents who access the centers. Some young people also told Human Rights Watch that they do not go to hospitals or local clinics to seek advice for fear of being stigmatized by health personnel who most often know them or their parents.

Youth groups working on adolescent reproductive health acknowledge the overall efforts on adolescent health, but expressed concern that most information services target a predominantly urban population. The government, in partnership with the UN Population Fund and other agencies, has set up a hotline, as well as a text message service where adolescents can get instant information on topics as varied as menstruation, the use of condoms or how to stay protected from HIV/AIDS. The general population can also obtain information from hotlines managed by Marie Stopes International or ASBEF, the International Parent Planthood Foundation’s chapter in Senegal.

According to Ousmane Diouf, who coordinates the National Alliance for Youth for Reproductive Health and Family Planning, most of these initiatives do not target young people in rural areas, where most teenage pregnancies occur and where young people are frequently isolated from information and confidential services.[195]

In 2016, the government launched a project to end school-related teenage pregnancies in the regions of Guédiawaye, Fatick, and Kolda. This project aims to build parents’, and school staff’ capacity and knowledge around violence, adolescence and development, among other topics.[196]

VI. Senegal’s International Legal Obligations

Senegal is a party to all core international and regional treaties that protect girls’ and women’s human rights, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the “Maputo Protocol”).[197]

Senegal has not adopted a Children’s Code to bring the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child into national law.

The Right to Education

Under international and regional human rights law, all persons have a right to free, compulsory, primary education, free from discrimination.[198] All persons also have the right to secondary education, which includes “the completion of basic education and consolidation of the foundations for life-long learning and human development.”[199] State Parties have to ensure that different forms of secondary education are generally available and accessible, take concrete steps towards achieving free secondary education, and take additional steps to increase availability such as the provision of financial assistance for those in need.[200]

Senegal’s 2004 law on education states that compulsory education shall be free from 6 to 16 years of age. In 2018, Human Rights Watch called on the government of Senegal to ensure secondary education is fully free in practice.[201]

African regional human rights standards also set out specific measures to protect women and girls’ education. The Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa specifically places obligations on governments to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, guarantee them equal opportunity and access to education and training, and protect women and girls from all forms of abuse, including sexual harassment in schools.[202] The African Youth Charter–ratified by Senegal in 2009–includes an obligation to ensure girls and young women who become pregnant or married before completing their education have an opportunity to continue their education.[203]

Protection from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out an obligation of governments to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.[204] States should take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment, or exploitation, including sexual exploitation, harassment and other forms of abuse.[205]

The Maputo Protocol calls on states to adopt legislative, administrative, social, and economic measures as may be necessary to identify the causes and consequences of all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence whether it occurs in private or public, and to ensure their prevention, punishment, and eradication.[206] This treaty also calls on states to protect women and girls from all forms of abuse, including school-related sexual harassment, and ensure perpetrators are sanctioned.[207] Survivors of sexual abuse and harassment should get access to counselling and rehabilitation services.[208]

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has called on states to adopt and enforce law, policies and procedures to prohibit and tackle school-related violence against girls and women. They should explicitly prohibit verbal and emotional abuse, stalking, sexual harassment and sexual violence, physical violence and exploitation.[209] In 2011, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child urged all African states to adopt measures to eliminate violence in schools.[210]

Protection from Child Marriage

The African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have taken a clear position on 18 as the minimum age for marriage, regardless of parental consent.[211] The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child states that, “Child marriage and the betrothal of girls and boys shall be prohibited.”[212] This Charter explicitly requires governments to take effective action, including legislation, to specify the minimum age of marriage as 18 years.[213]

Child marriage is still legal in Senegal. Senegal’s Family Code permits girls to get married from age 16, while boys need to be 18 to get married.[214] The Penal Code tacitly permits child marriages “celebrated according to custom” by only criminalizing sexual acts or intent to have sexual acts with girls younger than 13 in the context of a marriage.[215]

In 2016, Senegal launched the African Union’s campaign to end child marriage.[216] As part of this campaign, the government committed to raise the age of marriage for girls to 18.[217] At time of writing, the government had not reformed its marriage law, in line with its international and regional obligations.

In 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its concern about the slow progress in the abandonment of child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). The Committee called on the government to criminalize the failure to report FGM, adopt its plan of action to end child marriage, and establish protective mechanisms and adequate services to safeguard girls affected.[218]

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Under the Maputo Protocol, women and girls have the right to choose any method of contraception, the right to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, and the right to family planning education. States have obligations to “provide adequate, affordable and accessible health services, including information, education and communication programmes … especially … in rural areas.”[219]

Unequal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services amounts to discrimination, according to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.[220] The Committee has recommended that states adopt age-appropriate, comprehensive and inclusive sexual and reproductive health education (SRHE), in their compulsory school curriculum. SHRE should be based on scientific and human rights standards, and be developed in consultation with adolescents.[221]

In 2005, Senegal adopted a law on reproductive health that defines the right to reproductive health as a fundamental and universal right. It guarantees equal access to reproductive services, free from discrimination based on age or civil status, as well as the right to information and adequate education on reproductive health.[222]

 

Recommendations

Adopt Stronger Measures to End School-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Abuse

Ministry of National Education

  • Ensure the Minister of National Education, and teachers’ union representatives, issue directives to schools and teachers explicitly prohibiting sexual relations between teachers and students, outlining unacceptable and unlawful conduct, and promoting teachers’ professional responsibilities to tackle and prevent any form of school-related sexual and gender -based violence.
  • Adopt a national education policy against sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, that includes: guidance on what constitutes or could lead up to these abuses, procedures to be adopted when cases are reported to school staff, clear school-based enforcement mechanisms and sanctions, and referrals to police.
  • Ensure all schools abide by the national policy on sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, and ensure teachers are trained on the procedures.
  • In consultation with education actors and teachers, including teachers’ unions, adopt a new nationwide binding professional code of conduct for teachers and school officials that is displayed in all schools.
  • Ensure that legislation relating to school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, particularly provisions in the Penal Code, are rigorously enforced, and that perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice and punished with sanctions that are commensurate to their crimes.
  • Commission an independent research study to enable the government to understand how widespread sexual violence, including exploitation, harassment and abuse, is in the education system.

Investigate All Allegations of School-Related Sexual Exploitation, Harassment and Abuse

Ministry of National Education

  • Establish clear mechanisms, procedures and guidelines to reinforce the mandatory nature of reporting of any cases of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse of students.
  • Adequately respond to cases of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse against students in educational institutions by ensuring that:
    • All schools have functioning confidential and independent reporting mechanisms appropriate to the local school context. These could involve a trained counsellor or designated teacher at a minimum, or a reporting mechanism or telephone hotline system set-up to refer complaints directly to a designated member of the relevant child protection committee.
    • Students affected are promptly referred to external services for health, psychological support and contraceptive needs.
    • Senior school officials conduct investigations following any allegations of misconduct, and where a law is violated, refer alleged perpetrators to the police.
    • Perpetrators of sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse are suspended from any position of authority affecting the complainant or the investigation during investigations, and if there is sufficient evidence, prosecuted, in line with international fair trial standards, or dealt with through the government’s disciplinary process for civil servants.
  • Ensure principals require all school staff to report to them any suspected incidents of sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse, and hold school staff and teachers to account when they do not effectively report, refer or address such cases.
  • Ensure education inspectorates submit timely reports on cases of sexual exploitation, harassment or abuse, as well as other child rights violations, to relevant child protection committees and the Ministry of National Education.
  • Ensure principals and school staff have confidential avenues to report malpractice in education inspectorates.
  • Hold senior school officials and local inspectorates to account when they fail to report allegations of sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse.

Urgently Tackle Barriers that Impede Girls’ Education

Ministry of National Education

  • Ensure secondary education is fully free by removing tuition fees and indirect costs charged by schools.
  • Ensure national education sector planning includes explicit measures to remove barriers to girls’ education, including school-based responses to sexual and gender-based violence, and child protection issues like child marriage and female genital mutilation. Ensure all programs include analysis of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse.
  • With international financial and technical support:
    • Allocate adequate funding to scale-up existing projects that focus on improving the quality of education and retention of girls in secondary education, which should include programs on adequate and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education.
    • Ensure the national child protection strategy is adequately funded to guarantee child protection committees are active and well-resourced at all levels, particularly increasing coverage in rural areas.
  • Ensure local administrations and mayors allocate adequate funding for programs targeting girls and women in their jurisdictions, particularly to build adequate school infrastructure, to support local awareness campaigns, particularly youth-led campaigns and projects.
  • Provide regional education departments with resources to organize local awareness raising campaigns to end the culture of silence around school-related sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse.

Provide Adequate Training for Education Staff and Teacher Placement

Ministry of National Education

  • Implement mandatory pre-service teacher training on existing laws on sexual offenses, and the new national school policy against sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse, child rights, and the national child protection strategy. All new teachers, school leadership and administrative staff should be trained before their first placement.
  • Adopt and roll-out a focused in-service training on sexual and gender-based violence in schools, starting with heads of school, senior school staff and teachers, and school inspectors. Ensure the training equips teachers and school staff with strategies to reduce students’ risk of exposure to sexual exploitation and harassment and build knowledge about the consequences of perpetrating or failing to report cases.
  • Recruit, train and place more female teachers and administrators in schools where the school faculty is predominantly male, focusing on teacher placement in rural areas. Prohibit and address discrimination, including indirect discrimination, on gender grounds in the hiring, retention and promotion of teachers and school administrators.
  • Design and implement a national in-service training program to train existing teachers to become counsellors in schools.
  • Train teachers on how to recognize students who are affected or distressed due to school-related sexual abuse, coercion or exploitation, and how to act on such cases.
  • Provide regular remote or in-person training for teachers involved in Education Pour La Vie Familiale (EVF) clubs, ensuring they are trained to provide scientifically accurate and age-appropriate information on reproduction, contraception and sexuality.

Adopt a Strong Curriculum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Ministry of National Education, with Ministry of Health and Social Action

  • Ensure the curriculum on reproductive health education complies with international standards, and ensure that the national curriculum:
    • Expands to include comprehensive information on sexuality and reproductive health, including information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, responsible sexual behavior, prevention of early pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted infections;
    • Is mandatory, age-appropriate, and scientifically accurate;
    • Is applicable and appropriate for teaching in primary school;
    •  Responds to young people’s needs, and is informed by young people through regular consultations.
  • Ensure the information distributed in school clubs, particularly in EVF clubs, is based on scientifically accurate information about reproduction, contraception and sexuality.

Ensure Young People Have Access to Appropriate Youth-Friendly Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

Ministry of National Education, with Ministry of Family, Women and Gender

  • Involve students and young people in local awareness raising campaigns to end the culture of silence around school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse, as well as abuses by drivers, military and other adults who exploit children in schools or school-related activities.
  • As part of local campaigns, schools should ensure students have the knowledge and tools they need to question and challenge violence and gender discrimination, and to understand what constitutes sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse so that they can identify and report them.
  • Provide support to schools to organize awareness campaigns and regular trainings for students on child protection, child rights and ways to tackle gender stereotypes and discrimination.
  • Take measures to support married and pregnant students so that they can remain or re-enrol in school and are not discriminated against.

Ministry of Health and Social Action and Ministry of Youth, Employment and Citizen Building

  • Ensure advice centers for adolescents (CCA) are adequately resourced and staffed so that they can provide a quality service for young people who require information and guidance on sexuality and reproduction. To increase coverage for more adolescents, ensure advice centers have regular outreach programs or one-stop shops in rural and remote areas.
  • Ensure health centers do not stigmatize adolescents who are sexually active, and that they are staffed with medical personnel qualified to provide confidential and comprehensive adolescent health services.
  • Expand access to free legal services and psychosocial support in rural areas, by working with, and financially supporting, national civil society organizations that provide these professional services.

Amend and/or Adopt Laws to Strengthen Protection for Children Affected by Abuses

National Assembly of Senegal

  • Amend the Penal Code to:
    • Include a provision that specifies the minimum age of consent to sexual activity, equal for all children, in accordance with international human rights norms and best practice.
    • Include a specific criminal offense for an adult who has sexual relations with children under the minimum age of consent.
  • Promptly table and adopt the draft Children’s Code, including articles to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for boys and girls.
  • Amend article 111 of the Family Code and article 300 of the Penal Code in order to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 for both boys and girls, and take all necessary measures to eliminate child marriages.

Acknowledgments

This report was researched and written by Elin Martínez, researcher in the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch; with additional research by Juliane Kippenberg, Children’s Rights associate director. Beya Rivers, Elena Bagnera and Aurélie Edjidjimo Mabua, Children’s Rights interns, provided research assistance.

This report was edited by Juliane Kippenberg. Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor, and Babatunde Olugboji, deputy program director, provided legal and program reviews. Corinne Dufka, West Africa director, and Agnes Odhiambo, Women’s Rights senior researcher, provided expert reviews. Production assistance was provided by Alex Firth, Children’s Rights associate; and Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager. The French version of this report was translated by Danielle Serres; vetting was done by Peter Huvos.

Human Rights Watch is grateful to all the children, young adults, parents, teachers, school principals, education officials, education, child protection and women’s rights advocates, health workers, and experts who shared their experiences and provided expert input.

We would like to thank the many organizations, experts, and activists who assisted us in conducting the research for this report, and shared data and program information with us.

We are particularly grateful to Bocar Diallo; Maricou Nené and members of Youth Women for Action (YWA) Sénégal; Amy Sekou and Nafissatou Seck of the Association des Juristes Senegalaises; Ousmane Diouf and members of the Alliance Nationale des Jeunes Pour la Santé de la Réproduction et la Planification Familiale; Cheikh Barro, Cherif Abdoulaye Sarr and members of the Association des Jeunes Leaders pour le Developpement; Cheikh Mbow and Marie Elisabeth Massaly of COSYDEP; René Sibomana, Everienne Ndirabika, Georgette Barboza, Awa Guy Lo and staff of the Association Jeunes et Environnement; Thierno Diallo of the Coalition National Education Pour Tous; Saorou Sené of the Syndicat Autonome des Enseignants Moyen et Secondaire; Alassane Diop of Plan International Senegal; Abdou Aziz Fall of the Association Protegeons l’Enfant Senegal; Ndèye Fatou Faye of Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale de Dakar (CEGID); Tidiane Sidibé and Samboudiang Kambaye, from the Centre de Conseils d’Adolescents in Sédhiou and Ziguinchor; Laura D’Elsa and Ruhiyyeh Banister, formerly with the Peace Corps; Molly Melching of TOSTAN; Victorine Djitrinou, Nathaly Soumahoro and Zakaria Sambakhe of Actional Aid International; Xavier Hospital of UNESCO; Matthias Lansard of UNICEF Senegal and Jennifer Hofmann, formerly with UNICEF’s West and Central Africa regional office; Andrea Wojnar-Diagne, formerly with the UN Population Fund Senegal; Sujata Bordoloi of the UN Girls’ Education Initiative; Yona Nestel of Plan International; and Lauren Seibert, former West Africa coordinator at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch acknowledges the cooperation and input from government officials in the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Health and Social Action, the Ministry of Youth, Employment and Citizen Building, and the Ministry of Justice.

 

 

[1] Adolescence is also used to refer to the particular period in human growth and development that occurs after childhood and before adulthood. World Health Organization, “Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health: Adolescent development,” undated, http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/topics/adolescence/dev/en/ (accessed February 6, 2018).

[2] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Sexual and gender-based violence in the context of transitional justice,” October 2014, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/OnePagers/Sexual_and_ge... (accessed April 4, 2018).

[3] World Health Organization, “Violence against women fact sheet,” November 2016, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en (accessed April 4, 2018).

[4] World Health Organization, “Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Prevention and Response, Policy and procedures,” March 2017, http://www.who.int/about/ethics/sexual-exploitation_abuse-prevention_res... (accessed December 11, 2017).

[5] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Women in Senegal: Breaking the chains of silence and inequality,” April 17, 2015, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15857&L... (accessed February 9, 2018); Enquete Plus, “Violences basées sur le genre: Des statistiques inquiétantes,” (SeneWeb), January 29, 2018, http://seneweb.com/news/Societe/violences-basees-sur-le-genre-des-statis... (accessed February 9, 2018); Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice on its mission to Senegal,” A/HRC/32/44/Add.1, April 7, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/070/93/PDF/G1607093.pd... (accessed February 9, 2018), p. 7.

[6] Ministére de l’Education Nationale, “Rapport National d’Evaluation de l’Education Pour Tous (EPT) Sénégal,” 2015, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002316/231652f.pdf (accessed February 9, 2018), p. 31.

[7] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Senegal,” CRC/C/SEN/CO/3-5, March 7, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/044/22/PDF/G1604422.pd... (accessed February 14, 2018). p. 11 - 12.

[8] For example, ONU Senegal, “Lancement officiel de la campagne HeforShe, par le Président de la République du Sénégal, Macky Sall,” March 8, 2018, http://www.onusenegal.org/Lancement-officiel-de-la-campagne-HEFORSHE-par... (accessed August 22, 2018) ; Ministère de l’Education, “Elaboration d’un cadre de coordination des interventions sur l’éducation des filles,” December 2006, http://www.education.gouv.sn/root-fr/upload_pieces/elaboration.pdf (accessed February 9, 2018).

[9] Ibid., p. 17 – 18.

[10] Ministère de l’Education, “Plan de developpement pour l’Education des Filles au Sénégal (2009 – 2011),” December 2008, http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/sites/planipolis/files/ressources/senegal_plan_developpement_education_filles_2009-2011.pdf (accessed September 19, 2018), p. 8.

[11] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Elaboration d’un cadre de coordination des interventions sur l’éducation des filles ;” Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Rapport National d’Evaluation de l’Education Pour Tous (EPT) Sénégal,” 2015, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002316/231652f.pdf (accessed July 16, 2018), pp. 24 – 28.

[12] These include the Italian-backed “Program d’Appui pour l’Education des Filles,” the United States’ “Education, Priorité, Qualité” and its project “Promoting Safe Middle Schools in Senegal.” Agenzia Italiana per la Cooperazione Allo Sviluppo, “Cartographie des projets de la Coopération Italienne au Sénégal – PAEF Plus,” http://www.coopitasen.org/spip.php?rubrique2 (accessed February 14, 2018); USAID, “Promoting safe middle schools in Senegal,” 2010, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnaea258.pdf (accessed February 14, 2018).

[13] United Nations, “Sustainable Development Goals,” https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org (accessed February 16, 2018).

[14] Girls Not Brides, “Senegal Launches African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage,” June 23, 2016, https://www.fillespasepouses.org/senegal-launches-african-union-campaign... (accessed February 5, 2018).

[15] African Union, “Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action,” May 2014, https://au.int/sites/default/files/pages/32905-file-campaign_to_end_chil... (accessed June 20, 2018).

[16] République du Sénégal, “Loi 2004-37 du 15 Décembre 2004 modifiant et complétant la loi d’orientation de l’Education nationale n. 91-22 du 16 Février 1991,” http://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/SERIAL/75283/78245/F1277535961/SEN-75... (accessed February 9, 2018), art. 3 bis.

[17] See Human Rights Watch, “Open Letter for President Macky Sall on Free Secondary Education in Senegal,” January 25, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/25/open-letter-president-macky-sall-free-secondary-education-senegal.

[18] Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar and UNICEF, “Etude Orlecol - Synthèse analytique, Les enfants hors ou en marge du système scolaire classique au Sénégal,” 2016, http://horizon.documentation.ird.fr/exl-doc/pleins_textes/divers17-03/01... (accessed February 9, 2018), pp. 11, 14, 32 and 35.

[19] UNICEF, “Statistiques – Senegal,” https://www.unicef.org/french/infobycountry/senegal_statistics.html#117 (accessed February 9, 2018). While girls often drop out of school due to early marriage, teenage pregnancy, or parents’ preference for boys, many boys also drop out of school, often to work or due to the cost of secondary education.

[20] République du Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Rapport National d’Evaluation de l’Education Pour Tous (EPT) Sénégal,” p. 16.

[21] Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar and UNICEF, “Etude Orlecol,” p. 37. Human Rights Watch was not able to find girls with reported disabilities in schools it visited. The very few who access secondary education are placed in special schools in or around Dakar and Thiès. Human Rights Watch interview with Francesca Piatta, Quality – Inclusion coordinator, Handicap International Senegal, Dakar, June 15, 2018.

[22] UNICEF, Unicef Data: Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women, “Child Protection – Child Marriage,” https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-marriage/, 2017, (accessed February 9, 2018); Girls not Brides, “Senegal,” https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/senegal/ (accessed February 9, 2018).

[23] Senegal’s Criminal Code criminalizes marriage with a child under the age of 13, but its marriage law permits marriage for girls from age 16.

[24] République du Sénégal, Ministère de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale, “Plan Stratégique de Santé Sexuelle et de la Reproduction des Adolescents/Jeunes au Sénégal [2014-2018],” September 2014, https://www.prb.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Plan-Strate%CC%81gique-de-Sante%CC%81-Sexuelle-et-de-la-Reproduction-des-AdolescentesJeunes-au-Se%CC%81ne%CC%81gal-2014-2018.pdf (accessed February 9, 2018), p. 17.

[25] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal : Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” June 2015, http://senegal.unfpa.org/fr/publications/s%C3%A9n%C3%A9gal-etude-sur-les... (accessed February 9, 2018).

[26] UN Population Fund, “World Population Dashboard – Senegal,” undated, https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population/SN (accessed February 9, 2018).

[27] Guttmacher Institute, “Abortion in Senegal,” April 2015, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/abortion-senegal (accessed June 21, 2018).

[28] Ibid.; Sedgh et al., “Estimates of the incidence of induced abortion and consequences of unsafe abortion in Senegal,” 2015, 41 International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, March 2015, https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/ipsrh/2015/03/estimates-incidence-in... (accessed June 21, 2018).

[29] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal: Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” p. 7; Le quotidien, “1971 cas de grossesses en milieu scolaire: Les élevés victimes des élèves,” August 24, 2016, http://www.sen360.com/news/amp/553744 (accessed February 14, 2018).

[30] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal: Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” p. 14.

[31] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Circulaire sur la gestion des mariages et des grossesses a l’école,” Circulaire no.004379/ME/SG/DEMSG/DAJLD, October 1, 2007, http://www.education.gouv.sn/root-fr/upload_pieces/Tome%204%20Gestion%20... (accessed February 14, 2018).

[32] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal : Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” p. 64.

[33] UNICEF, Plan West Africa, Save the Children Sweden, et al, “Too Often in Silence,”   March 2010, https://www.unicef.org/cotedivoire/Too_often_in_silence_Report.pdf (accessed July 31, 2018), p. 23; Birné Birgitte Ndour, “Etude sur les violences faites aux filles en milieu scolaire,” May 2008, http://www.genreenaction.net/IMG/pdf/ETUDE_20Rapport_20final_1_.pdf (accessed July 31, 2018); Plan International, “Victimes de l’école – Les violences de genre en milieu scolaire, obstacles au droit des filles et des garçons à l’éducation,” October 2014, http://www.ungei.org/RAPPORT_VGMS_-_BAT_BD.pdf (accessed July 31, 2018), pp. 14, 19; République Française, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères et Européennes, “Les violences de genre en milieu scolaire en Afrique subsaharienne francophone,” 2012, https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/Rapport_violences_en_milieu_scola... (accessed August 22, 2018).

[34] République du Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Interventions sur les violences basées sur le genre en milieu scolaire : état des lieux,” (hard copy on file with Human Rights Watch), p. 8.

[35] Senegal’s Penal Code defines pedophilia as “any gesture, touching, caressing, pornographic manipulation, use of images or sounds … for sexual purposes on a child under sixteen of either sex” (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[36] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, Division de L’Enseignement Moyen et Secondaire Général, “Etat des lieux sur les violences en milieu scolaire dans le moyen secondaire,” undated (hard copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[37] Some interviewees told Human Rights Watch that the study was partly based on questionnaires sent to schools, which were filled in on a voluntary basis. According to a regional inspector who spoke with Human Rights Watch, participation in the study was low in the region of Kolda, and the study does not present a fully accurate picture of the reality in schools in this region. UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal : Etude sur les Grossesses Précoces en Milieu Scolaire.”

[38] Ibid., p. 11.

[39] Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice on its mission to Senegal,” A/HRC/32/44/Add.1, April 7, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/070/93/PDF/G1607093.pd... (accessed February 9, 2018), p. 18.

[40] The Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended that states introduce an acceptable minimum legal age for sexual consent, by taking “into account the need to balance protection and evolving capacities,” and to include a “legal presumption that adolescents are competent to seek and have access to preventive or time-sensitive sexual and reproductive health commodities and services.” States should also “avoid criminalizing adolescents of similar ages for factually consensual and non-exploitative sexual activity.” Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence,” CRC/C/GC/20, December 6, 2016, paras. 39 - 40.

[41] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi n. 99-05 du 29 janvier 1999, art. 320 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch). Human Rights Watch believes states should expand the legal definition of rape to include “any physical invasion of a sexual nature without consent or under coercive circumstances.” A “physical invasion” occurs when there is a penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim (or of the perpetrator by the victim) with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body.”

[42] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi n. 99-05 du 29 janvier 1999, art. 319 bis (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid., art. 320 bis and art. 321 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[46] Ibid., art. 321 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[47] Ibid., art. 48 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[48] UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning, “Rapport de Synthèse – e-Forum IIEP-UNESCO sur les Codes de conduite des enseignants,” 2012, http://teachercodes.iiep.unesco.org/teachercodes/resources/Rapport_Forum... (accessed July 31, 2018), p. 5.

[49] Ibid.; Human Rights Watch meeting with Khady Ndiaye Sow, director, Gender and inclusive education bureau, Middle and General Secondary Education division, Ministry of National Education, Dakar, July 23, 2018.

[50] “Code de Déontologie de l’Enseignant(e),” in Gouvernement de Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Assises de l’éducation du Sénégal,” Rapport général, August 3, 2014, http://ekladata.com/VsEYubtB_tfL25iiSwpfrX-x4o0/Rapport-Final-des-Assise... (accessed July 31, 2018), pp. 140 – 144.

[51] “Le Serment de l’Enseignant et de l’Enseignante,” in Gouvernement de Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Assises de l’éducation du Sénégal,” p. 145.

[52] Ibid., pp. 140 – 143.

[53] Apanews, “Les violences sexuelles en milieu scolaire perçues comme le principal obstacle a l’éducation des filles,” Seneweb, November 16, 2012, http://www.seneweb.com/news/Societe/les-violences-sexuelles-en-milieu-sc... (accessed January 31, 2018); Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, “Abus Sexuels, Ce que les enfants en pensent! Extrait des focus group organisés aux Parcelles Assainies et à Pikine en milieu scolaire dans le cadre du 10eme fed.” (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[54] According to the World Health Organization, sexual exploitation is defined as “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, threatening or profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.” World Health Organization, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Prevention and Response, Policy and procedures, March 2017, http://www.who.int/about/ethics/sexual-exploitation_abuse-prevention_response_policy.pdf (accessed December 11, 2017).

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatima, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Abdul Aziz Sy, teacher, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Koumba Ndiaye, Brigade contre la violence des femmes et filles, Medina Yoro Foulah, Kolda, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Adama, 16, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Zakaria Sambakhe, Policy and Partnership Manager, Action Aid International Senegal, Dakar, June 14, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Mamadou Coulibaly, program manager, Grandmother Project, Vélingara, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with father of pregnant girl, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[57] UNICEF, Plan West Africa, Save the Children Sweden, et al, “Too Often in Silence,” p. 23; Birné Birgitte Ndour, “Etude sur les violences faites aux filles en milieu scolaire ;” Plan International, “Victimes de l’école – Les violences de genre en milieu scolaire, obstacles au droit des filles et des garçons à l’éducation,” pp. 14, 19; Ministère de l’Education Nationale, Division de L’Enseignement Moyen et Secondaire Général, “Etat des lieux sur les violences en milieu scolaire dans le moyen secondaire,” undated (hard copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Yayha Colly Thieto, officer, Groupe pour L’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, Dakar, June 14, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Kolda region, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with regional education officer, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with health officer, Kolda, October 23, 2017; Human Rights Watch group discussions with 41 girls and young women, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview with Aïssatou, 16, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch group discussions with 41 girls and young women, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatima, 25, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Kiné, 22, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Maïmouna, 16, Sédhiou, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Penda, 17, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 22 girls, Ndorna, Kolda region, October 26, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 9 girls and young women, Congoly village, Bignona, October 29, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[61] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, Division de L’Enseignement Moyen et Secondaire Général, “Etat des lieux sur les violences en milieu scolaire dans le moyen secondaire,” undated (hard copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Maïmouna, 16, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 23, 2017.

[63] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama, 17, Kolda, October 27, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Rokhaya, 17, Kolda, October 27, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Sokna, 19, Dakar, November 4, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Imany, 22, Dakar, November 4, 2017.

[65]Human Rights Watch interview with Thierno Abasse, Executive Director, Education Pour Tous, Dakar, August 14, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Anta, 21, Pikine, Dakar, August 15, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Tidiane Sidibé, adolescent health volunteer, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Madi Wake Toure, “Enquête – Droit de cuissage: L’Ecole sénégalaise dans tous ses ebats,” Groupe Futurs Medias, July 22, 2015, http://www.igfm.sn/enquete-droit-de-cuissage-lecole-senegalaise-dans-tou... (accessed January 26, 2018).

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with Hawa, 16, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with Kodda, 17, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Aïssatou, 16, Sédhiou, October 23, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Hawa, 17, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with Aïssatou, 16, Sédhiou, October 23, 2017.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with Antou, 21, Pikine, Dakar, August 15, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Aissata, 21, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch group discussions with 20 girls, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Penda, 17, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch group discussions with 41 girls and young women, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 22 girls, Ndorna, Kolda region, October 26, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 9 girls and young women, Congoly village, Bignona, October 29, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 17 girls and young women, Mpak village, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with Fanta, 23, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with Aïcha, 15, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with Penda, 17, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[74] Human Rights Watch interview with Maïmouna, 16, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 23, 2017.

[75] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi de Base N. 65-60 du 21 Juillet 1965, arts. 319, 320 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017.

[77] Some students also felt that teachers got unacceptably close to them when they were writing on the board. Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 6 girls and young women, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017.

[78] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi n. 99-05 du 29 janvier 1999, art. 319 bis (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[79] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[80] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 9 girls and young women, Congoly village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Soukeyna, 20, Guédiawaye, August 12, 2017.

[82] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls and young women, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Coumba, 12, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 6 girls and young women, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[83] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017. Corporal punishment in schools is partly illegal in Senegal, but the current law only protects students aged 6 to 14, and is rarely upheld. “Decrée No. 79-11.65 de 1979,” in Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, Plan International, Save the Children, “Interdire les châtiments corporels des enfants en Afrique occidentale et centrale,” Rapport d’Etape 2014, 2014, https://www.crin.org/sites/default/files/west_and_central_africa_report_... (accessed July 30, 2018), p. 49.

[84] Words in quotation marks indicate words used by girls and young women during interviews with Human Rights Watch.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with Kiné, 22, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls and young women, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with seven girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with Coumba, 12, Pikine, Dakar, August 15, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls and young women, Pikine, Dakar, August 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 6 girls and young women, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017.

[87] Human Rights Watch group discussions with 41 girls and young women, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Kadiatou Ba, school administrator, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Ndèye Fatou Feye and Sofie Mane, psychology team, Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, Dakar, August 17, 2017.

[90]Human Rights Watch interview with Nené Maricou, president, Youth Women for Action (YWA) Senegal, Dakar, August 12, 2017.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with Mamadou Lamine Sow, former chief of education, UNICEF Senegal, Dakar, June 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with René Sibomana, executive director, Action Jeunesse et Environement, Dakar, June 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Marietou Dia, gender expert, Dakar, June 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[92] Vincent Gomis, “L’école sénégalaise menacé par les viols sur mineurs,” SeneNews, August 27, 2013, https://www.senenews.com/actualites/lecole-senegalaise-menace-par-les-vi... (accessed January 18, 2018) ; Seneweb, “3600 cas de viol au Sénégal en 2016,” September 30, 2016 http://www.seneweb.com/news/Societe/3600-cas-de-viol-au-senegal-en-2016_... (accessed January 18, 2018); aDakar, “Violences sexuelles sur les jeunes filles: Indifférence coupable!” July 11, 2016, http://news.adakar.com/h/77040.html (accessed January 18, 2018).

[93] International Development Research Centre, “Les Médias au Sénégal: Outil de Sensibilisation ou de Banalisation des VBG?” March 2014, https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/bitstream/handle/123456789/10126/Les... (accessed February 18, 2018).

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Seckou Balde, head of psychiatric health and gender focal point, Kolda health centre, Kolda, October 23, 2017.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Hassan Deux Diop, director, CEDEPS and coordinator, Centre des Conseils pour Adolescents, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Idrissa Sambou, director, office for social protection and educational assistance, AEMO, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Khady Sow Ndiaye, director, gender and inclusive education bureau, Middle and General Secondary Education division, Ministry of National Education, Dakar, November 3, 2017.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Amy Sakho and Nafissatou Seck, Association des Juristes Senegalaises, Pikine, Dakar, August 11, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Idrissa Sambou, director, office for social protection and educational assistance, AEMO, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Sira Corréa, director, Maison d’Acceuil Kullimaaro, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[97] See for example, “Kolda : Le Directeur d’Ecole de Medina Koundie engrosse l’élève mineure,” AlloDakar, November 12, 2015, http://allodakar.com/2015/11/12/kolda-le-directeur-decole-de-medina-koun... (accessed April 6, 2018); Dianke Mane, “Accusé de viol, le professeur soutient : le caleçon retrouvé servait de chiffon,” Senego, March 20, 2018, https://senego.com/accuse-de-viol-le-professeur-soutient-le-calecon-retr... (accessed April 6, 2018).

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with Koumba Ndiaye, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 22, 2017.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with Sira Corréa, director, Maison d’Acceuil Kullimaaro, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[100] Human Rights Watch interview with Aïssatou, 16, Sédhiou, October 23, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with regional education officer, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Tidiane Sidibé, adolescent health volunteer, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[101] Human Rights Watch interview with senior teacher, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with Fanta, 23, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Tidiane Sidibé, adolescent health volunteer, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with Cheikh Kane, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017.

[104] Human Rights Watch interview with Hawa Kande, gender focal point, education inspectorate, Kolda, October 24, 2017.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Kalidou Sy, mayor, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017.

[106] Human Rights Watch interview with Kiné, 22, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 7 girls, Ounck village, Bignona, October 29, 2017.

[107] Human Rights Watch interview with Koumba Ndiaye, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 22, 2017.

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Kolda, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with father of pregnant girl, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Hassane Deux Diop, director, CDEPS, coordinator, Centre des Conseils pour Adolescents, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[109] The terms “maslaha” and “sutura” are often used interchangeably. The term “maslaha” is derived from a tenet of Islamic shariah law. According to Mariama Khan, a Gambian academic and activist, “Having sutura is considered such an important moral attribute in Senegalese society that individuals often feel compelled to keep private facts or events that could bring shame to themselves or their family members. Challenging the dictates of Sutura is a necessary and courageous act by women who are victims of sexual violence.” Mariama Khan, “Sutura (English version), a Mariama Khan Film,” February 25, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=17&v=5nHVP6uLB8E (accessed February 9, 2018).

[110] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[111] Human Rights Watch interview with Tidiane Sidibé, adolescent health volunteer, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[112] Human Rights Watch interview with Fanta, 23, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017.

[113] Human Rights Watch with Cheikh Kane, village, Sédhiou region, October 24, 2017.

[114] Human Rights Watch interview with Ndèye Fatou Feye and Sofie Mane, psychology team, Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, Dakar, August 17, 2017.

[115] See Unesco and UN Women, “Global Guidance – School-Related Gender-Based Violence,” 2016, http://www.ungei.org/Global_Guidance_SRGBV.pdf (accessed February 18, 2018), pp. 34 – 50.

[116] Lauren Ziegler, “Tuseme : Girls’ Empowerment Theater-for-Development Clubs Sénégal,” https://www.changemakers.com/educationafrica/entries/tuseme-girls-empowe... (accessed February 18, 2018).

[117] “Cadre de Coordination des Interventions sur l’Education des Filles,” See, for example, Ministère de l’Education Nationale et Cooperazione Italiana, Cadre de Coordination des Interventions sur l’Education des Filles (CCIEF), “Evaluation du Projet d’Appui à l’Education des Filles (PAEF) – Rapport de Synthèse,” May 2013, http://openaid.esteri.it/media/documents/Rapporto_sintetico_valutazione_... (accessed July 31, 2018).

[118] Human Rights Watch interview with Tacko Koita, principal, Mpak village, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[119] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 17 girls and young women, Mpak village, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview with Lalia Mané, teacher, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 18, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 20, 2017.

[122] République du Sénégal, “Stratégie Nationale de Protection de L’Enfant,” December 2013, https://www.unicef.org/senegal/french/SNPS.pdf (accessed September 19, 2018), p. 11; Child Frontiers, “Cartographie et Analyse des Systèmes de Protection de L’Enfance au Senegal – Rapport Final,” January 2011, https://www.unicef.org/wcaro/french/Senegal_Carto_Analyse_Systemes_Prot_... (accessed September 19, 2018).

[123] République du Sénégal, “Stratégie Nationale de Protection de L’Enfant.”

[124] Ibid., pp. 26, 27 – 34.

[125] Ibid., p. 5.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Idrissa Sambou, director, office for social protection and educational assistance, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[128] République du Sénégal, “Stratégie Nationale de Protection de l’Enfant – Modèle de Structuration et de Fonctionnement des Comités Départementaux de Protection de l’Enfant,” September 2014, https://www.unicef.org/senegal/french/MODEL.pdf (accessed June 20, 2018), p. 20.

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 18, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Vélingara, October 18, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Kolda region, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school teacher, Kolda region, October 23, 2017.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with former school principal, Dakar, August 14, 2017.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Antoinette Nzaly-Gaye, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[133] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda region, October 22, 2017.

[134] Only a handful of schools receive financial support or technical know-how from international NGOs to maintain these observatories. Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[135] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with regional education officer, Kolda region, October 22, 2017.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school teacher, Kolda region, October 23, 2017.

[138] Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, “Abus Sexuels, Ce que les enfants en pensent! Extrait des focus group organisés aux Parcelles Assainies et à Pikine en milieu scolaire dans le cadre du 10eme fed,” (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[139] Unesco and UN Women, “Global Guidance – School-related gender-based violence,”2016, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002466/246651E.pdf (accessed April 10, 2018).

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with Ndèye Fatou Faye and Sofie Mame, psychology team, Centre de Guidance Infantile et Familiale, Dakar, August 17, 2018.

[141] Oumoul Khaïry Coulibaly, “Violences sexuelles et accès a la justice: le mode d’établissement des preuves, un frein majeur a la lutte,” SeneNews Premium, March 12, 2018, https://www.senenews.com/actualites/violences-sexuelles-et-acces-a-la-ju... (accessed April 9, 2018).

[142] Human Rights Watch interview with Marietou Dia, gender expert, Dakar, June 16, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Amy Sakho and Nafissatou Seck, Association des Juristes Senegalaises, Pikine, Dakar, August 11, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Mariama Barry Diao, Brigade de dénonciation contre la violence des filles et femmes, Kolda, October 21, 2017. The Association des Femmes Juristes found that judges often relax a sentence of rape or acts of pedophilia where the plaintiff has not been able to produce a medical certificate to attest a rape. Association des Femmes Juristes, “Jurisprudence sur le viol au Sénégal (1990 à 2013): le déni de justice aux victimes,” undated, http://femmesjuristes.org/?page_id=218 (accessed August 22, 2018).

[143] Association des Juristes Sénégalaises, “Prise en Charge,” http://femmesjuristes.org/?page_id=426 (accessed February 15, 2018); Service Public Sénégalais, “Demander à faire bénéficier à un enfant d’un service de l’action éducative en milieu ouvert (AEMO),” http://www.servicepublic.gouv.sn/index.php/demarche_administrative/demar... (accessed February 15, 2018).

[144] Human Rights Watch meeting with general commander, Gendarmerie, Vélingara, October 19, 2017; Human Rights Watch meeting with deputy prefect, Ziguinchor prefecture, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with El Hadj Nfally Sané, Focal point for projet PEGMISS, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[146] Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 19, 2017.

[147] Ibid.

[148] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[149] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Kolda, October 26, 2017.

[150] Human Rights Watch interview with regional education officer, Kolda region, October 22, 2017.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with Mor Diakhate, executive director, ALPHADEV, Malika, Dakar, August 11, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Kolda region, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Kalidou Sy, mayor, Medina Yoro Foulah, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 24, 2017.

[152] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Projet de politique de formation des personnels de l’éducation,” May 2014, http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Dakar/pdf/Projetpolitiq... (accessed January 31, 2018), p. 27 ; Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Gouvernance de la formation des personnels de l’éducation au Sénégal,” May 7, 2014, http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Dakar/pdf/gouvernancepersonnelseducation_draft_2.pdf (accessed September 10, 2018), p. 12.

[153] USAID, “Promoting safe middle schools in Senegal,” 2010, http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnaea258.pdf (accessed February 14, 2018).

[154] Ministère de l’Education Nationale, “Projet de politique de formation des personnels de l’éducation,” p. 29.

[155] Ibid., pp. 27 and 31.

[156] Ibid., p. 21.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with Saourou Sené, Secretary General, Syndicat Autonome des Enseignants du Moyen et Secondaire du Senegal (SAEMSS), Dakar, August 14, 2017.

[158] Ibid.

[159] Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Démographie, Senegal Data Portal, “Indicator : Education : Effectif des enseignants – Public-Total Moyen et Secondaire (2004 - 2015),” published January 2017, http://senegal.opendataforafrica.org/cwafhf/education-efffectif-des-%C3%A9l%C3%A8ves-et-des-enseignants-de-l-enseignement-moyen-et-secondaire (acccessed June 20, 2018).

[160] Data for 2015 shows that 1,768 female middle and secondary school teachers were placed in rural areas, compared with 3,796 female teachers placed in urban areas. Ibid.; République du Sénégal, “Rapport National sur la situation de l’Education 2016,” p. 144.

[161] Human Rights Watch interview with Amadou Lamine Wade, Inspector of Education and Training, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[162] The “gender bonus” provides 15 points for women who apply for a post in a rural area, in contrast to 10 points for those who apply for a role in urban areas. Teachers can move on to roles with greater responsibilities depending on the points they acquire throughout their careers. République du Sénégal, Ministère de l’Education Nationale et Ministère de la Formation Professionnelle de l’Apprentissage et de l’Artisanat,” Direction des Ressources Humaines – Guide Pratique du Mouvement des Personnels Enseignants,” April 2016, http://www.mirador.education.gouv.sn/miroirs/PDFMiroirs/Guide%20r%C3%A9a... (accessed June 20, 2018), p. 4 ; République du Sénégal, “Rapport National sur la situation de l’Education 2016,” p. 144.

[163] Alliance Nationale des Jeunes pour la Santé de le Réproduction et de la Planification Familiale, “Rapport du 1er Forum National des Jeunes sur la SSRAJ,” January 2017, (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[164] Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Education pour la vie familiale,” “Le Club EVF,” undated, http://www.geep.org/geep/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&It... (accessed February 18, 2018).

[165] Human Rights Watch interview with Yahya Colly Thieto, officer, Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, Dakar, June 14, 2017.

[166] Human Rights Watch interview with Sadou Baldé, middle school teacher, Kolda, October 22, 2017. See, for example, UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Education à la Sexualité Complete – Un Module de Formation Pour Adolescent( e)s,” Edition 2014, and “Boite à Outils de Plaidoyer pour l’Intégration de l’Education a la Sante Sexuelle et Reproductive des Adolescents/tes et des Jeunes (ESSRAJ) a l’Ecole,” June 2017 (copies on file with Human Rights Watch).

[167] Human Rights Watch interview with middle school principal, Sédhiou, October 25, 2017.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with Yahya Colly Thieto, officer, Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, Dakar, July 24, 2018.

[169] Human Rights Watch interview with Meta, 15, Vélingara, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Sadou Balde, middle school teacher, Kolda, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with middle school teacher, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[170] Human Rights Watch interview with Meta, 15, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[171] Janet Burns, “Research Confirms that Abstinence-Only Education Hurts Kids,” Forbes, August 23, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2017/08/23/research-confirms-th... (accessed February 17, 2018); John Santelli and Mary A. Ott, “Abstinence-only education policies and programs: A position paper for the Society for Adolescent Medicine,” (2006) 38 Journal of Adolescent Health https://www.adolescenthealth.org/SAHM_Main/media/Advocacy/Positions/Jan-... (accessed February 18, 2018), pp. 83- 87; Human Rights Watch, “The Less They Know, the Better,” Abstinence-Only HIV/ADIS Programs in Uganda, March 2005 https://www.hrw.org/report/2005/03/30/less-they-know-better/abstinence-o....

[172] Human Rights Watch interview with Dame Ndiaye, coordinator, Right Here, Right Now, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017.

[173] Human Rights Watch interview with midwife, health post, Ndorna village, Kolda region, October 27, 2017.

[174] Human Rights Watch interview with Ruhiyyeh Banister, Peace Corps volunteer, Ndorna village, Kolda region, October 27, 2017.

[175] UN Population Fund and Groupe pour l’Etude et l’Enseignement de la Population, “Sénégal: Etude sur les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire, Rapport,” p. 7 ; UNICEF, UN Population Fund and Ministère de la Femme, de la Famille et de L’Enfance, “Rapport de l’étude: Analyses des Déterminants Sociaux Culturels et Economiques des Facteurs favorisants les Mariages d’Enfants dans les Régions de Diourbel-Fatick-Kaffrine-Kédougou-Kolda-Louga-Matam-Tambacounda et de Sédhiou,” January 2017 (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[176] Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls, Vélingara, October 19, 2017.

[177] Human Rights Watch interview with Sadou Balde, middle school teacher, Kolda, October 22, 2017; Human Rights Watch focus group discussion with 10 girls, Vélingara, October 19, 2017.

[178] Human Rights Watch interview with Meta, 15, Vélingara, October 21, 2017.

[179] Katie Chau, Aminata Traoré Seck et al, “Scaling up sexuality education in Senegal: integrating family life education into the national curriculum,” January 6, 2016, 16(5) Sex Education - Sexuality, Society and Learning, https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2015.1123148 (accessed June 20, 2018), pp. 504, 506, 512.

[180] United Nations technical guidance provides that “sexuality” is understood as: A core dimension of being human which includes; the understanding of, and relationship to, the human body; emotional attachment and love; sex; gender; gender identity; sexual orientation; sexual intimacy; pleasure and reproduction. UNESCO, UNFPA et al, “International technical guidance on sexuality education – An evidence-informed approach,” 2018, https://www.unfpa.org/publications/international-technical-guidance-sexuality-education (accessed April 6, 2018), p. 17. Human Rights Watch interview with Xavier Hospital, regional education and health specialist, UNESCO, Dakar, June 12, 2017; Human Rights Watch phone interview with Andrea Wojnar-Diagne, former country director, UN Population Fund Senegal, May 22, 2017.

[181] Human Rights Watch interview with Ousmane Diouf, coordinator, Alliance Nationale des Jeunes pour la Santé de la Reproduction et la Planification Familiale, Dakar, June 13, 2017.

[182] Katie Chau, Aminata Traoré Seck et al, “Scaling up sexuality education in Senegal: integrating family life education into the national curriculum,” p. 512.

[183] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, “General recommendation no. 36 (2017) on the rights of girls and women to education,” November 27 ,2017, CEDAW/C/GC/36, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy..., (accessed January 26, 2018), para. 68.

[184] UNESCO, UN Population Fund, et al, “International technical guidance on sexuality education - An evidence-informed approach,” pp. 34, 121.

[185] Human Rights Watch interview with Samboudyang Kambaye, adolescent health peer educator, Centre des Conseils d’ Adolescents, Ziguinchor, October 30, 2017.

[186] Human Rights Watch interview with Georgette Barboza, Action Jeunesse et Environnement, Kerr Massar, Dakar, June 15, 2017.

[187] Human Rights Watch interview with Fathy, 22, Kolda, October 27, 2017.

[188] Human Rights Watch interview with Khady, 25, Guédiawaye, Dakar, August 12, 2017.

[189] Human Rights Watch interview with Babacar Sy, director, Centre des Conseils d’Adolescents, Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[190] Human Rights Watch interview with Mamadou Coulibaly, program manager, Grandmother Project, Vélingara, October 20, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Babacar Sy, director, Centre des Conseils d’Adolescents, Kolda, October 21, 2017; Human Rights Watch interview with Abdoulaye Diao, regional coordinator, Tostan, Kolda, October 21, 2017.

[191] Projet Promotion des Jeunes, “Le projet de la promotion de la jeunesse, Centres des conseils pour adolescents,” http://www.conseil-ados.com/le-ppj.html (accessed February 15, 2018).

[192] Ibid.

[193] Ibid.

[194] Ministère de la Santé et l’Action Sociale, “Plan stratégique de santé sexuelle et de la réproduction des adolescent(e)s/jeunes au SENEGAL (2014-2018) ;” Ministère de la Santé, de l’Hygiène Publique et de la Prevention, “Plan Stratégique de la Santé de la Reproduction 2011 – 2015,” https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/admin-resource/Senegal%20Plan%... (accessed February 15, 2018); Ministère de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale, “Document de Programmation Pluriannuelle des Depenses, DPPD-Sante 2014 – 2016,” http://www.nationalplanningcycles.org/sites/default/files/planning_cycle... (accessed February 15, 2018), p. 7 – 8 ; Le Partenariat de Ouagadougou, “Sénégal,” https://partenariatouaga.org/en/country/senegal/ (accessed February 15, 2018); Ministère de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale, “Cadre stratégique national de planification familiale 2016 -2020,” https://partenariatouaga.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Plan-dAction-... (accessed February 15, 2018); Organisation Ouest Africaine de la Santé, “Guide D’Orientation pour l’élaboration des stratégies nationales de sante des adolescentes et jeunes des pays de la CEDEAO,” August 2016, http://www.wahooas.org/IMG/pdf/Guide_2016_OOAS_francais.pdf (accessed February 16, 2018).

[195] Human Rights Watch interview with Ousmane Diouf, national coordinator, Alliance Nationale des Jeunes pour la Santé de la Réproduction et la Planification Familiale, Dakar, June 13, 2017.

[196] Projet Pour l’Eradication des grossesses en milieu scolaire au Sénégal (PEGMISS); Sénégal Education, “Sénégal – Lutte contre les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” June 15, 2017, https://educationsn.com/senegal-lutte-contre-grossesses-precoces-milieu-... (accessed August 2, 2018) ; Sénégal Education, “Eradication des grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire Pikine et Guédiawaye s’engagent à la généralisation du code d’éthique,” December 4, 2017, https://educationsn.com/eradication-grossesses-precoces-milieu-scolaire-...édiawaye-sengagent-a-generalisation-code-dethique/ (accessed August 2, 2018); Thiam Mamadou, “Sénégal – Lutte contre les grossesses précoces en milieu scolaire,” La Vie Sénégalaise, June 15, 2017, https://www.laviesenegalaise.com/senegal-lutte-contre-les-grossesses-pre... (accessed August 2, 2018).

[197] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 49, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force January 3, 1976, ratified by Senegal on February 13, 1978, art. 13; Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted November 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force September 2, 1990, ratified by Senegal on July 31, 1990, art. 28; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990), entered into force November 29, 1999, ratified by Senegal on September 29, 1998, art. 11; Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/66.6 (2000), adopted by the 2nd Ordinary Session of the assembly of the Union, Maputo, September 13, 2000, entered into force November 25, 2005, ratified by Senegal on December 27, 2004, art. 12(1)(a) and (c).

[198] ICESCR, art. 13; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 11 (3).

[199] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “General Comment No. 13, “The Right to Education (Art. 13),” E/C.12/1999/10 (1999), http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/Training/Compilation/Pages/d)GeneralCommentNo13Therighttoeducation(article13)(1999).aspx (accessed June 20, 2018), para. 11 -12.

[200] ICESCR, art. 13(2)(b); CRC, art. 28(1) (b); African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 11(3)(b); African Youth Charter, art. 13(1) and 13(4)(b).

[201] Human Rights Watch, “Open Letter for President Macky Sall on Free Secondary Education in Senegal,” January 25, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/25/open-letter-president-macky-sall-free-secondary-education-senegal.

[202] Maputo Protocol, art. 12(1)(a) and (c).

[203] African Youth Charter (2006), adopted in Banjul, Gambia on July 2, 2006, entered into force August 8, 2009, ratified by Senegal on September 17, 2009, art. 13(1) and art. 13(4)(b).

[204] CRC, art. 34.

[205] CRC, art. 19 (1). See Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and Save The Children, “Towards non-violent schools: prohibiting all corporal punishment, Global report 2015,” May 2015, http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/assets/pdfs/reports-thematic/Schools%20Report%202015-EN.pdf (accessed September 19, 2018), pp. 4–5.

[206] Maputo Protocol, arts. 3(4) and 4(2)(b).

[207] Maputo Protocol, art. 12 (1)(b).

[208] Maputo Protocol, art. 12 (1)(b).

[209] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, “General recommendation No. 36 (2017) on the rights of girls and women to education,” CEDAW/C/GC/36, November 27, 2017, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/TBSearch.aspx?Lang=en&TreatyID=5&DocTypeID=11 (accessed April 6, 2018), para. 69 (a).

[210] African Union, African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, “Statement on Violence Against Children,” 2011, http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/assets/pdfs/reference-documents/ACERWC-statement-on-VAC-2011-EN.pdf (accessed September 19, 2018).

[211] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 4, Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of Child,” CRC/GC/2003/4, (2003), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/Health/GC4.pdf (accessed April 10, 2018), paras. 16, 20, and 35 (g). African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, “Joint General Comment on Ending Child Marriage,” 2017, http://www.achpr.org/files/news/2018/01/d321/joint_gc_acerwc_achpr_endin... (accessed April 10, 2018).

[212] African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 21 (2). Prohibitions on child marriage and non-discrimination are also included in the Maputo Protocol. At least 13 international and regional instruments extend protections from child marriage. African Child Policy Forum, “Provisions of International and Regional Instruments Relevant to Protection from Child Marriage,” May 2013, http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/International-a... (accessed June 20, 2018).

[213] African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 21 (2).

[214] Senegal’s Family Code considers anyone under the age of 18 a minor. République du Sénégal, “Code de la Famille,” 2000, arts. 267 and 111 (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[215] République du Sénégal, “Code Pénal,” Loi de Base N. 65-60 du 21 Juillet 1965, art. 300, (unofficial translation by Human Rights Watch).

[216] Girls Not Brides, “Senegal Launches African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage,” June 23, 2016, https://www.fillespasepouses.org/senegal-launches-african-union-campaign... (accessed February 5, 2018).

[217] African Union, “Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa: Call to Action,” May 2014, https://au.int/sites/default/files/pages/32905-file-campaign_to_end_chil... (accessed June 20, 2018).

[218] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Senegal,” CRC/C/SEN/CO/3-5, March 7, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/044/22/PDF/G1604422.pd... (accessed February 14, 2018). p. 11 - 12.

[219] Maputo Protocol, art. 14 (2)(a).

[220] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence,” CRC/C/GC/20, December 6, 2016, para. 59.

[221] Ibid., para. 61.

[222] République du Sénégal, Journal Officiel, Loi no. 2005-18 du 5 Aout 2005 relative à la santé de la reproduction, http://www.jo.gouv.sn/spip.php?article2613 (accessed February 15, 2018).

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Women prepare food in Hamdallaye village in the Boké region. Compensation payments for land lost to mining are often paid to male heads of household or lineages, even where the land is utilized by entire families or households. January 2018. 

© 2018 Ricci Shryock for Human Rights Watch

Rural women and girls play vital roles in their families and communities. They produce food, gather water, provide care, and navigate myriad challenges from poverty to environmental disasters, due to climate change. Today marks the International Day for Rural Women.

But too often, rural women and girls face extreme challenges in realizing their human rights. Many are denied equal property and inheritance rights, and may lose land and other property if they divorce or are widowed. When whole communities are forced off their lands because of mining or commercial agriculture, they suffer different hardships from men, such as walking longer distances to find clean water – an essential task done mainly by women. Rural women and girls are often excluded from leadership and decision-making, they are denied justice systems and policing services, and are at added risk of violence and harmful customary practices.

In developing countries, women constitute on average 43 percent of the agricultural labor force. However, their ownership of agricultural land remains significantly lower than men’s. Human Rights Watch research in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia highlights how even with laws on paper protecting women’s access to land and property, government implementation of these laws is weak and oversight is poor.

Some progress has been made to recognize rural women’s rights, including their land and property rights. Last month the UN Human Rights Council adopted a draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, recognizing the significant role rural women play in the economic survival of their families and the rural and national economy. In 2016, a UN committee on women’s rights adopted guidance on the rights of rural women. Some countries have adopted laws that should protect women’s property and inheritance rights, but implementation often falters.

Amidst grave global threats of inequality, environmental degradation, and poverty, it’s past time to stop holding rural women back. Governments, corporations, families, and others need to fully respect their human rights. 

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Women protest for equal rights, against racism and against gender violence in Brasília.

© Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil

From October 7 until the end of the year, Brazilian women work for free. That’s one way of picturing the gender-based pay discrimination that haunts Brazilian businesses.

Brazilian men earn in about nine months the same as their female counterparts do in a whole year. Here’s another way to picture it: If women were paid the same monthly salary as men, they could work until October 6 and take the rest of the year off.

They do not, of course. Women continue patrolling our streets, designing our buildings, investing our money, growing our food, caring for our elderly, and teaching our children, and making 23 percent less, on average, than men.

This is not just unfair and wrong. It is bad for business and for Brazil´s economy. Candidates elected to Congress and the presidency in this year´s election should act to make equal pay for equal work a reality in Brazil.

Some of the pay difference can be attributed to women being underrepresented in high-paying jobs. More Brazilian women than men go to college, but as they climb the career ladder, they hit an unyielding glass ceiling. Higher education is no protection against pay discrimination—women with university degrees earn 36 percent less than men with degrees.

At the heart of the pay gap is pervasive gender discrimination. Brazil ranks near the bottom—119 of 144 countries—in wage equality for similar work, a yearly World Economic Forum survey of executives shows. What drives this inequality is discrimination often subtle enough that it is hard for women to prove it or even speak out against it effectively.

“Ana,” who works at a Brazilian bank, shared her experience with me. She asked me not to use her real name and other details of her story, for fear of reprisals.

Two years ago, Ana, a well-performing employee, received the first part of a routine bonus at the beginning of the year. Her supervisor promised her the rest—a bigger part, he said—at the end of the year.  This was standard practice at her bank.

But in between, Ana disclosed that she was pregnant. This did not affect her work.  But when the second part of the bonus arrived, she got the same amount as the first. Of course, the bank did not say the lower-than-expected bonus was because of the pregnancy, but she was sure it was. No other explanation was offered. “Prejudice is hidden,” she said. “It’s hard to fight it.”

The next year, after Ana came back from a six-month maternity leave, she received no bonus. Zero. She told her supervisor that she should receive a bonus at least for the six months she had worked.  She didn’t. 

Paying women less than men for the same job not only exposes businesses to possible lawsuits, it is just bad business.

Jairo Okret, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry, an international consulting and recruiting company, told me that companies that create a reputation for being fair and women-friendly are better at retaining top talent, the main asset of any business.

Ana, for one, considered leaving her bank. “I was really upset,” she said. She only stayed because the bank promoted her,— proof, she says, that her lower bonuses were not due to lackluster performance. Despite the promotion, she did not get the bonus she should have received.

Banks with  more women on their boards perform better and are better prepared financially for a possible crisis, a recent International Monetary Fund study of 800 banks worldwide showed.

The authors found evidence that, given the obstacles women face to advance in the financial sector, those who overcome them are uniquely qualified and driven, and that is a boon for companies. But women shouldn’t have to prove they can overcome discrimination to demonstrate their worth. IMF data show that diversity of views and backgrounds leads to better decisions. Full stop.

Government has a role to play in ensuring gender pay equality. In the United States, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 established protection against pay discrimination, and in 2016 then-president Barack Obama created the Equal Pay Pledge. More than a hundred of the largest companies signed on, with commitments to identify and rectify gender pay inequities. Several European countries have likewise enacted pay transparency measures that reveal gender pay gaps at the company level.

A recent World Bank report asserts that countries are losing billions of dollars because of differences in earnings between women and men. In Brazil, an academic study of 3,000 cities shows that the gender pay gap slows economic growth.

The new members of Congress and the Executive who will take office in January should make sure Brazilian women, like Ana, get fair wages for their work. It will be good for women and good for the whole country.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

© 2017 Marco Tibasima for Human Rights Watch

African governments should ensure the right to education for all girls by ending discrimination against those who are pregnant or have children, Human Rights Watch said today ahead of the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child.

This year’s theme, “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, ” has particular importance for Africa, where governments are forcing tens of thousands of girls to drop out of school prematurely and failing to teach them adequate skills.

“Africa cannot have a skilled workforce if authorities throw girls out of school because they are pregnant,” said Agnes Odhiambo, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “When girls get a quality education, they gain the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their potential and transform their lives, families and communities.”

Video

International Day of the Girl Video

Millions of girls across Africa are banned or discouraged from school because they’re pregnant, already a mother, or forced into marriage.

In Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania, government and school officials deny pregnant girls the right to attend school. Elsewhere in Africa, governments are not doing enough to ensure that adolescent mothers resume their education after pregnancy.

In 2013, African Union member countries unanimously adopted Agenda 2063, a continent-wide economic and social development strategy. Under this strategy, African governments committed to build Africa’s “human capital,” which the AU terms “its most precious resource,” through sustained investments in education, including “elimination of gender disparities at all levels of education.”

In 2017, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child called on African countries to put in place measures to achieve equal access to education for girls and boys. They jointly stated that, “it is compulsory … to facilitate the retention and re-entry of pregnant or married girls in schools.” In 2018, the AU called on member countries to “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development.”

Although many African governments have made strong commitments to guarantee that pregnant girls and young mothers can attend school, girls face many difficulties in enrolling and remaining in school, and excelling academically, Human Rights Watch said. Many teenage mothers are not in school because of poor implementation and weak monitoring of national re-entry policies. Pregnant girls and young mothers are often stigmatized or rejected, have little to no support from their family or school, are condemned by government officials, face economic hardship, and are sometimes exposed to exploitation and violence. These problems present barriers to girls who are trying to continue their education.

Discriminatory government policies often regard education for adolescent mothers as a privilege that can be withdrawn as a punishment. In June 2018, Burundi – a country with widespread sexual violence with near-total impunity – reversed its policy protecting girls’ right to education regardless of pregnancy, their marital status, or motherhood. Burundi’s education minister in June 2018 banned the boys who get the girls pregnant as well as the girls themselves – including those forced into marriage – from going to formal public or private schools. A month later, under unclear circumstances, the minister lifted the ban.

In some countries, adolescent mothers are expected to transfer to technical and vocational centers, which often charge tuition fees and provide poor-quality training. Human Rights Watch has found that female students are very often limited in the technical subjects they are allowed to study in these centers.

The African Union should not tolerate discrimination against pregnant girls and adolescent mothers. It should press all member countries to end, in policy and practice, the expulsion of female students who become pregnant or get married. Governments should ensure girls get the support they need to remain in education, including through small accommodations – for example, giving students time for prenatal checks (where those cannot happen outside class time), time to breastfeed during breaks, and time off in case her child is ill or to comply with other medical or bureaucratic requirements.

African governments should also adopt a comprehensive approach to girls’ education, and address the many factors that lead to teenage pregnancies and difficulties that prevent girls from getting an education. The steps governments should take include eliminating primary and secondary school fees and providing financial support for at-risk and highly vulnerable girls; and strengthening the quality of education provided in public schools, including through effective teacher training.

Governments should also ensure that schools have systems to protect students’ safety; and provide adolescents with access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and services at school and in the community, as well as birth control. Governments should also provide information to parents, guardians, and communities about the benefits of educating girls.

“Banning pregnant girls from schools is counterproductive and contrary to African governments’ international legal obligations,” Odhiambo said. “Ensuring that all girls benefit from quality education, free from discrimination, is critical for building a skilled female workforce for Africa’s development.” 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

African governments should ensure the right to education for all girls by ending discrimination against those who are pregnant or have children.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The reported rape and murder of journalist Victoria Marinova, 30, in Bulgaria this weekend raises concerns about threats to media freedom. But it also serves as a stark reminder that Bulgaria should prioritize efforts to combat violence against women. Instead, authorities are taking worrying steps to eschew Europe’s most far-reaching tool to fight it.

Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court dealt Bulgarian women a devastating blow when it ruled in late July that a comprehensive regional treaty to address violence against women is unconstitutional. Over 40 Bulgarian groups and prominent people immediately condemned the decision. European institutions should, too.

Bulgaria is one of only eight EU member states that have not ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence and Violence against Women, known as the Istanbul Convention.  In February, parliament members requested a ruling on the convention’s compatibility with Bulgaria’s Constitution, amid claims that the convention’s calls for gender equality aim to encourage homosexuality, and warnings that it could lead to “questioning traditional values of Bulgarian society.”

Women protest at a gathering of the 'One Billion Rising' campaign in central London February 14, 2013. One Billion Rising is a global campaign to call for an end to violence against women and girls. 

© 2015 Reuters
In an eight-to-four ruling, the Constitutional Court declared that the convention’s use of “gender” as a social construct contravenes Bulgaria’s Constitution, which specifies a binary understanding of “sex”-- male and female – that is “determined at birth.” Despite the Bulgarian constitution’s protection against sex-based discrimination, the court says this “does not mean equal treatment of both sexes” because biological differences must be taken into account. As one legal scholar wrote, “[T]he court literally reduced women to their childbearing function.” 

More and more frequently, European governments are using fear-mongering arguments to advance homophobic and sexist agendas. Efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence are becoming frequent casualties of such politics. It is a dangerous game, and European Union and Council of Europe leaders should vehemently object.

European states and institutions that created and promoted the Istanbul Convention should be deeply concerned by the Bulgarian court’s – and politicians’ -- distortion of the treaty’s efforts to combat violence against women. Such gross misrepresentations demonize organizations working to prevent and respond to domestic and other violence against women, and anyone who seeks their help. It silences discussion of such violence and, more broadly, of discrimination against women.  And it reinforces the idea that family violence is a private matter, and even acceptable.

These views flagrantly contravene European Union and Council of Europe values of human rights, equality, and dignity. They are also incompatible with the guarantee of non-discrimination in the European Convention on Human Rights, which Bulgaria ratified decades ago.

Bulgarian women are paying the price for such misconceptions about women’s rights. Of all 28 EU member states, Bulgaria fared worst in a 2017 European Institute for Gender Equality analysis of the prevalence, severity, and underreporting of violence against women. Over 30 percent of Bulgarian women in a 2016 study reported experiencing domestic or other gender violence.

Ripple effects from the Bulgarian ruling are also already apparent. Following the decision, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences announced it would halt work on a program to support teachers in addressing gender inequality. The Education and Science Ministry had already reportedly stopped a school-based survey that addressed gender, violence, and stereotypes.

Across the region, public officials’ open disdain for advancing equality and combating violence against women is gaining steam. Shortly after Bulgaria’s parliament refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention in February, Slovakia followed suit. Croatia’s government ratified the Convention in June, but not before significant protests over its use of the term “gender.” Poland’s ruling PiS party has threatened to withdraw from the convention on grounds that it endangers traditional Polish culture and values, including women’s “natural role” in society. And in August Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party moved to ban gender studies in higher education.

Failing to address violence against women and girls hurts entire communities, not just women, and costs nations millions. And promoting gender equality is key to combating violence against women. 

Amid the increasingly “anti-gender” and anti-Convention rhetoric in Bulgaria in January, the Council of Europe human rights commissioner, Nils Muiznieks, issued a letter to the president of Bulgaria’s National Assembly. Claims that the convention attempts to destabilize families are patently false, he said; rather, it works to fight “the main cause of destruction of families, that is, violence.” He emphasized, “[T]he Istanbul Convention is about preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and has no other hidden purposes or effect.”

The statement was a much-needed reminder of what should be a shared European goal to end violence against women. Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court decision instead adds fuel to the already-raging fire of government misinformation campaigns – something that women, as well as LGBTQI people, in Europe can ill afford.

The Council of Europe, European Parliament, European Commission and European Union member states should urgently condemn the Bulgarian Constitutional Court decision, take robust action to dispel the myths it promotes, and take serious measures to address such blatant disregard for Europe’s self-proclaimed core values. And in the wake of a sexual assault and murder that has shaken the public, Bulgarian authorities should take action to show they are committed to tackling violence against women in any form.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Women take part in a protest along a main street in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi November 17, 2014. The demonstrators were demanding justice for a woman who was attacked and stripped in Nairobi by men who claimed that she was dressed indecently.

© 2014 Reuters
An article in Kenya’s Daily Nation recently profiled 10 women who were found murdered and warned other women they could be at risk of “a crime of passion.” “It appears that being young and upwardly mobile could put you at high risk of falling victim of a cold-blooded murder,” the article read, adding that none of the 10 victims profiled received any justice.

Violence against women is a serious problem in Kenya that affects women and girls from all walks of life. All too often, the media carries gruesome stories of women who have been burned, had their hands chopped off, or harassed and even undressed in public. While some of these cases have attracted widespread condemnation by Kenyans, often victims have been ridiculed and verbally abused for speaking out.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey said 42 percent of women and 36 percent of men believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of these reasons: if the wife burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the children, or refuses sexual relations. According to the survey, 45 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence and 14 percent have experienced sexual violence.

Sexual violence against women and girls featured heavily in the post-elections violence, both in 2007-2008, and most recently in 2017. The Kenyan government response to violence against women and girls is inadequate. Many victims do not get justice, medical assistance, or counseling following sexual violence.

The Kenyan government should set up an Office of the Special Rapporteur on Sexual Violence, as recommended by both the Commission of Inquiry into the 2007-2008 Post-Election Violence and the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission. Both bodies recognized the widespread nature of and lack of consequences for crimes against women and girls.

If effectively set up, such an office could help strengthen efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, help people deal with the aftereffects of violence, and help make sure perpetrators are brought to justice.

The Kenyan government should not continue to tolerate crimes against women and girls.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Garment workers are leading a global fight against poor factory inspections. A couple of weeks ago, Pakistani worker representatives and European rights groups filed a complaint with Italian authorities against RINA. RINA, an auditing firm, issued a report certifying the Ali Enterprises factory. Weeks after they issued an SA8000 certificate—a standard for labor and social compliance in the industry—the factory burned down killing more than 250 workers.

So how can a factory that is certified burn down? And are “social audits” and certifications working?

A couple of months ago, Andrew S. and I sat at a roadside eatery in one of Asia’s apparel hubs. A plateful of starters, a pot of rice, and some iced coffee, and three hours flew by as he described his experiences inspecting garment factories for labor conditions and treatment of workers.  The process is known as “social audits” and it is a huge industry.  

Andrew (not his real name) had spent more than 15 years conducting these audits across five countries, first visiting garment factories for an apparel company and later as a freelance auditor. Apparel companies or factories hire auditing firms or freelance auditors to inspect social and labor conditions and report back with their findings and how to fix problems they identify.

Women in the sewing division of a factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Women constitute about 90 percent of the workforce in Cambodia’s garment industry.

© 2014 Samer Muscati/ Human Rights Watch
Consumers who are concerned about the conditions in garment factories rely on claims that brands monitor the factories that produce for them through credible social audits. They have a right to know whether the social audit process actually works.   

That’s why a recent case brought before German authorities is so important and why it’s so troubling to know that these audits are riddled with problems. The German authorities’ findings in a June 26 report came at the end of a two-year process in response to complaints about a social audit conducted by TUV India and its parent company, TUV Rhineland, in a factory in Bangladesh.  

It brought me back to my conversation with Andrew. I would have expected him to defend the social audit process. But the frank conversation I had with him provided an in-depth look at just how bad the problems are, and how urgent the need for change.

In 2016, survivors of the Rana Plaza disaster and human rights groups filed a complaint against these companies with the German National Contact Point for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). National Contact Points for OECD members hear disputes about the application of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, a key set of standards defining rights-respecting business conduct.

The complainants questioned TUV India’s social audit methods and findings for Phantom Apparel Ltd., saying that its social audit had failed to detect the illegal use of child labor and violations of workers’ freedom of association.

Phantom Apparel Ltd. was one of the five factories housed in the eight-story Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. The building collapsed in 2013, killing 1,135 workers and injuring more than 2,000 others. Among other things, TUV said after the disaster that it used audit tools and procedures from the Business and Social Compliance Initiative, a leading business association, but that its system did not cover fire and building safety.

Over the last few months, I’ve spoken to a good number of people in the auditing industry and other industry experts. Some of the most scathing criticism and candid insights about the “social audit” industry has come from experienced auditors themselves. Andrew minced no words. He had repeatedly seen the system fail workers.

German authorities have identified numerous concerns with the auditing industry. These include auditors’ technical expertise, the methodology for audits, and how the audits are paid for. The authorities also expressed concerns about whether factories actually fix the problems and what brands do to monitor the process, and whether workers have ways of raising grievances after the auditors leave the premises. The German report identified many of the challenges that auditors like Andrew themselves have raised in my conversations with them.

Social compliance auditing is a multi-billion dollar industry. At one end of the spectrum are huge corporate behemoths, including TUV Rheinland, TUV Nord, TUV SUD, SGS, UL, BV, and Intertek. These companies provide a range of services, including product and quality testing, and social audits. At the other end of the spectrum are smaller firms, many of them providing specialized services. Social audits are conducted across various industries and not just the apparel industry.

Germany, with its Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, which includes apparel companies and nongovernmental organizations, and aims to improve garment industry policies and accountability for factories they source from, is well placed to lead a dialogue that would fundamentally alter the social audits business. Italian authorities too should come out strongly pushing for a rehaul of the system. Consumers should be able to feel confident that the workers who make their clothing work in safe conditions and are treated with decency and respect.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

تم منح د. دينيس موكويغي ونادية مراد جائزة نوبل للسلام للعام 2018 على عملهما على مساعدة الضحايا وإنهاء العنف الجنسي في الحروب.

© 2014 Claude Truong-Ngoc/2017 Diputació de Barcelona/WikiCommons

In awarding the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has made an important and timely decision to honor the survivors of sexual violence in war and those who work to assist them. 

As a survivor turned advocate, Murad provided a ray of hope to thousands of female survivors of rape by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) that they may one day see justice. ISIS crimes include the abduction ofan estimated 6,300 Yezidis and subjecting women and girls to a system of organized rape and sexual slavery. Murad has taken their plight directly to the United Nations and governments around the world.

There has been worldwide condemnation of ISIS’s abuses, and judges in Iraq have charged thousands of ISIS suspects with terrorist affiliation, yet we are unaware of a single trial that has led to a prosecution for sexual violence. 

Mukwege is a renowned gynecologist in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a courageous and outspoken human rights activist. At great personal risk, he speaks out about the pervasiveness of rape as a weapon of war and the near total impunity for these crimes. Thanks to support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation and Human Rights Watch are currently partnering to create a global survivor movement, with joint efforts starting in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

His work at Panzi Hospital in eastern Congo has given hope to countless survivors of sexual violence, allowing them to rebuild their lives despite suffering unspeakable atrocities.These women and girls have been healed, heard, and know they deserve justice thanks to Mukwege's tireless efforts. The prize is a tribute not only to Mukwege, but to all of them. 

The Peace Prize sends a message that all women who suffer sexual violence deserve justice and should not wait any longer. Itcomes as sexual violence and harassment have gained some of the attention they deserve around the world through the #MeToo movement. It is particularly poignant in the United States, where US officials have failed to adequately investigate sexual assault allegations against a nominee to the Supreme Court. 

While today’s prize is about sexual violence in conflict zones, it should spur efforts to combat sexual violence and harassment everywhere. In times of war and peace, survivors should be heard, and those responsible should face justice. 

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am