June 17, 2019
Opération Sourire: Celebrating 30 Years
Gender-based violence has long been a neglected issue caused by ongoing insecurity and violence in the Central African Republic. The perpetrators are rarely brought to justice and as a result, instances of violence often go unreported. The victims are often women and children, with men and boys being also being affected but to a lesser extent.
Since 2015, Doctors of the world has worked to support survivors by providing them with medical care, mental health support and legal assistance. Survivors can access these services within the 6 health facilities that we support across the country. We spoke with survivors and staff from our project to learn more about the context in which they live and work.
“When the Selekas took over Bangui, they raped me. I am a mother to 3 children, the last being a result of this rape. After what happened my husband abandoned me and the children. When my son got sick, I went to Gobongo health center and met a lawyer who was raising awareness about rape. She gave me the time to express myself, referred me to the midwife for care, and to a counsellor for psychosocial support. I greatly appreciate the support of these services. I have told many women who have suffered like me about their availability.”
“I am trained as a lawyer and I am working with survivors of gender-based violence. I have been really dedicated to this cause since graduating university. I want to help people who are not aware of their rights. Legal aid is important for restoring hope for survivors. I listen to them, I write complaints and I accompany them in their proceedings to the court so that they can obtain redress. The setting up of the Special Criminal Court is a huge step forward for victims of this crime.”
“While my mother was away, my father raped with me. He threatened me by saying that if I told anyone he would kill me. When she found out, my mother took me to the Gobongo health center where we met with a lawyer. I also met with a midwife because I had a sore lower abdomen. She took care of me and gave me medicine. Since I have been taking the treatment, I feel much better. I was also referred to a counsellor who listened to me and we talked together about my problems.”
When a crisis arises, whether it is natural or man-made, the incidence of GBV and sexual violence increases. Multiple factors contribute to this such as increased population displacement, a lack of public order and rule of law, a climate of impunity, the absence of adequate systems of protection, and the disruption of social relations.
GBV has serious consequences on physical health and can cause the transmission of HIV or STIs, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, chronic pain, and in some cases even death. It can also cause post traumatic stress disorder and depression. Survivors of GBV often experience significant stigma and are excluded from mainstream society, making it even harder to gain access to the care they need.
“I really enjoy working in the care management department for survivors of gender-based violence. These women are always in very difficult situations. As a woman, I could not stand the violence occurring so I decided to help other women and to support them by providing care. I get particularly affected when I receive women who have been raped multiple times and those that have become pregnant as a result of their ordeal. They often have little to no support in their communities.”
“A young man in my neighborhood was always harassing me. He would say derogatory things and physically attack me. My neighbor has heard about the services at the health center and advised me to go. I spoke with a lawyer and a counsellor, neither of them judged me for my story. On the contrary, they believed me. All the services were free, respectful, and confidential. Many women are in this situation but they are afraid to talk about it. They are fearful of retaliation and don’t think anyone will believe them. The violence must cease!”
“Disaster situations, whether they are natural or man-made, often cause victims to lose an important part of their lives. Sometimes, the minimum respect that a human deserves is threatened. That is why, besides being displaced and being in need of food, victims often have other needs that are more intimate but equally urgent. I aim to free survivors from gender-based violence. I get particularly affected by the cases that involve minors, who are sometimes raped repeatedly by perpetrators that are still free and living in the same community as the survivor.”