The Guidelines on Combating Sexual Violence and its Consequences in Africa (the Guidelines) were adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during its 60th Ordinary Session held in Niamey, Niger from 8 to 22 May, 2017.
The goal of these Guidelines is to guide and support Member States of the African Union in effectively implementing their commitments and obligations to combat sexual violence and its consequences. Sexual violence continues to be a worldwide scourge and the African continent is no exception. It remains widespread both in time of conflict and crisis, and in times of peace. It takes place in public, in the street and on public transportation, but also in private, in the workplace or in intimate relationships. It mainly affects women and girls, but men and boys are also victims.
The statistics are alarming: in Sub-Saharan Africa almost 39 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18. In certain African countries, up to 95 per cent of girls are the victims of genital mutilation; more than 70 per cent of women report having been the victims of domestic violence, including sexual violence; and more than 90 per cent report having been the victims of sexual harassment and not feeling safe in public places. In addition, in several countries where conflict prevails, rape and other forms of sexual violence are used on a wide scale as a weapon of war.
Sexual violence has terrible consequences, both physical and psychological, for victims, those who are close to them, witnesses and society. All too often, the victims find themselves abandoned and stigmatized, and live in extremely difficult or even untenable conditions. They have trouble getting access to the medical, psychological and social services that they need, and they live in fear of reprisals. The majority are denied their right to protection, truth, justice and reparation - all violations that lead to the normalization and repetition of sexual violence.