Panafrican News Agency

Gambia’s human Rights Commission alarmed at spate of rape, gender-based violence

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Gambia's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed shock at the spate of rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence in the country.

A statement, signed by Emmanuel D. Joof, chairperson of the Commission, which was made available to PANA on Tuesday, stated that “hardly a week passes by without the report of sexual violence against the women and girls in the newspapers or on social media.”

He added: “A few days ago, it was the alleged rape of a 9-year-old girl by a 40-year-old man in Lamin, West Coast Region, and the alleged rape and gruesome murder of a Grade 12 student in Busumbala. Our young girls and ladies are apparently not safe in their own homes, schools, on the streets and at workplaces.”

He disclosed that a study on sexual harassment in the workplace in the Gambia, conducted by the NHRC in February 2021, indicated a high prevalence (74 per cent) of sexual harassment in workplaces, especially in role allocation, promotion and employment seeking.

“Disproportionately but unsurprisingly, women form the majority of the victims and the workplace is the most identified location where the harassment occurs.

The three highest types of workplace harassment are sexually suggestive comments and jokes, inappropriate staring and leering and the repeated or inappropriate invitation to go out on dates.

The Demographic and Health Survey 2013 and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2018 both showed the disturbing prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in our society,” chairperson Joof said.

According to the statement, the NHRC regards all forms of sexual and gender-based violence as a serious violation of human rights and reprehensible abuse of power and authority and the highest betrayal of trust.

The statement also stated that as a statutory body, the NHRC is mandated to promote and protect the rights of everyone within the Gambia, stressing that the Commission strongly urges the State, as the primary duty bearer, to take every legal measure and action to combat sexual abuse, violence and exploitation in the society.

The NHRC further urges the Gambia Police Force to vigorously enforce the Children's Act 2005, Sexual Offences Act 2013 and all other legislation that protects children and women from sexual violence and for the Ministry of Justice to ensure that alleged offenders are prosecuted.

“The laws must be enforced by investigating alleged perpetrators and successfully prosecuting the offenders. It is only in this way that impunity would be challenged and people’s confidence in the laws restored,” it said.

-0- PANA MSS/VAO 13April2021