Report: Survivors of sexual violence in Côte d’Ivoire require appropriate support

SIA KAMBOU / AFP

Paris, 8 March 2022. On the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) publishes the report A Family Matter: Obstacles to Effective Support for Victims of Sexual Violence in Côte d’Ivoire. Based on the experiences of 31 victims and their families, and thanks to interviews with key actors and institutions, the report analyses the obstacles to adequate care and support for victims and provides recommendations for the authorities to respect their commitments in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.

Côte d’Ivoire: sexual violence seems to be underestimated

Although Côte d’Ivoire’s government appears to be committed to fighting sexual and gender-based violence, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of its policies, as the data on sexual violence seems to be underestimated. According to the most recent national data, in 2020, there were 822 cases of rape, 152 cases of sexual assault, 96 cases of forced marriage and 13 cases of female genital mutilation. Three quarters of the victims are under 18 years of age and 98% of the underage victims are girls.

In addition to the known obstacles that prevent victims of sexual violence from speaking out about the acts they have been subjected to or from lodging a complaint – such as fear of stigmatisation, lack of knowledge of procedures and institutions, or shame – the report shows that the lack of reporting is due in particular to the prevalence of amicable settlements, which are widespread throughout Côte d’Ivoire. The use of community justice prevents victims from accessing modern justice and adequate care.

"Often facilitated by the families of victims and aggressors, community and religious leaders – and sometimes even by care providers – out-of-court settlements give primacy to the interests of the perpetrator, particularly his freedom, over those of the survivors, whose injuries are neither recognized nor compensated."

Corine Moussa Vanié, a lawyer and co-author of the report.

Obstacles to adequate care and support for victims

Few survivors manage to denounce the sexual violence suffered. They then face new difficulties within the care system. Medical, psychological and social care, as well as access to justice, are not ensured.

"Social services are paralysed by the lack of means. Legal and judicial assistance services are almost non-existent. Victims have no access to a lawyer. People are therefore not informed of their rights, nor of the progress of their case when it is underway."

Willy Neth, president of the Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l'Homme (LIDHO), a member organisation of FIDH.

Drissa Bamba, president of the Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains (MIDH), another FIDH member organisation, says: "Proceedings are slow and convictions are rare. Out of 31 cases of sexual violence documented by our organisations, none has resulted in a conviction, and one has resulted in a dismissal."

Recommendations : an effective access to justice

The report concludes with concrete recommendations that should be implemented promptly by the Ivorian government to respect its regional and international commitments, which require that victims have effective access to justice and appropriate and holistic care.

FIDH, with its Ivoirian members and partners, formed the Network of Actions against Sexual Violence (RAVS) at the end of 2019. This Network includes 12 civil society organisations, operating in 18 regions of the country and specialising in different areas of the fight against sexual violence (legal, social, medical, and psychological).

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