In Guinea-Bissau, violence against women takes many forms and is a very difficult scourge to eradicate.
Our cooperators and collaborators on site are well aware of this, who in recent days participated in a training session on the subject, as part of our project to combat gender violence “FREE FROM VIOLENCE” funded by the European Union.
Violence against women in Guinea-Bissau stems from a very rigid patriarchal culture. Women must ask their husbands for permission even just to go out, even to go to the doctor.
Many girls still suffer the terrible practice of genital mutilation. Many girls are forced to marry men, often much older than themselves, whom they have not chosen.
Even girls who attend school are unable to concentrate in their studies because they know that after class, they will have to go home to cook, wash their clothes and sell products in the market.
Their mothers have no power: it is always the fathers or uncles who decide their fate.
In a similar context, where gender-based violence is normalized and where domestic violent “conflicts” are resolved in the family, it is very difficult to enforce the law. If an abused woman accuses her attackers, in fact, she risks being expelled and repudiated by the community.
Furthermore, in most of the reported cases of gender-based violence, the practice is for the police to apply a two-day preventive detention to the aggressor, after which the aggressor can return to freedom without undergoing any removal measure. Furthermore, the complaint, in most cases, is resolved through mediation.
If we talk about psychological violence, then, the damages of which are not physically visible, the complaint is non-existent.
For all these reasons, victims and their families in the villages are totally discouraged to report. The situation in the city is no better, where the reported attackers, if well-off, are not punished or bribe the judicial officials.
“Crimes such as money laundering and drug trafficking are resolved quickly and punished according to the law, but when it comes to judging a crime against the person – particularly women and children – cases are literally put by part“. To tell us about it is a magistrate, coordinator of GEIOJ (Cabinet of Studies and Information and Legal Guidance), local partner of Mani Tese.
For two years, in fact, to cope with this situation, Mani Tese has created a network of assistance and reception for victims of gender violence and forced and early marriages made up of legal and psychosocial operators, police officers and civil society organizations. The multidisciplinary team includes technicians from the access to justice centers, the Women and Childhood’s Institute, the police, the Mani Tese team, the local organizations FEC and AMIC (Friends of Children Association).
In the last two years, the team has traveled extensively in the four intervention regions of the project, supervising cases of violence, working tirelessly to combat the phenomenon and keeping up to date through specific training.
In recent days, on 12 and 13 October, the team participated in the second training session at the AMIC reception center for victims of gender violence and forced and early marriage, recently reopened thanks to the support of Mani Tese in scope of the project FREE FROM VIOLENCE.
The training focused on the comparison between the operators, the improvement of the team’s assistance skills, the updating on new regulations in the field of domestic violence (unknown to most local operators) and ways to prevent victims who have the courage to ask for help are, following the complaint, re-victimized.
The task of the network is very difficult because in addition to providing assistance to the victims, the operators must make an immense cultural effort to change the macho mentality of the local communities and of their own colleagues. Furthermore, the pandemic did not help since it stopped the network’s valuable work in the area.
Operators know they have a really hard job ahead of them but they don’t give up.
But they do need support. Since the state budget is unable to guarantee victims access to justice and assistance services, funding is needed to keep activities against gender-based violence alive and to keep the shelter open, that can support international cooperation projects such as that of Mani Tese.
Some photos of the training: