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Urgent Interventions

Cameroon - Press Release: Violence Against Women

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) expresses its concern
regarding violence against women in Cameroon at the 31st Session of
the UN Committee against Torture

Geneva, 17 November 2003

The UN Committee against Torture will start on 18 November 2003 its
examination of the implementation of the Convention against Torture
and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by
Cameroon. On that occasion, the World Organisation Against Torture
(OMCT) submitted an alternative country report entitled "Violence
against Women in Cameroon" in which it expressed grave concern at
reports of violence against women at the hands of both state
officials and private individuals.

Reports show that the human rights situation in Cameroon is extremely
poor which is especially detrimental to the most vulnerable groups of
society, such as women. An analyses of the legal and socio-economic
and political status of women in Cameroon shows the link between the
high levels of violence against women in Cameroon and their low
status in all aspects of life. OMCT noticed the persistence of gender
discriminatory provisions in several laws and the discriminatory
customary law, as well as the prejudices and stereotypical attitudes
concerning the role of women and men in the family and society. These
roles are based on the notion of the superiority of men and the
subordination of women. The low socio-economic status of women, which
is, for example, manifested by the high illiteracy rate among women
and low representation of women in politics, leaves women more
vulnerable to violence at the public and private levels in Cameroon.

OMCT is extremely concerned about the persisting reports of torture
and ill-treatment of prisoners, by state officials, arbitrary arrests
and detention, and extra-judicial killings and the impunity with
which these human rights violations are met.

Women in detention centres are particularly subjected to gender-
specific forms of torture such as rape and other forms of sexual
violence by both prison guards and other inmates. Women and men are
detained in the same cells. According to reliable reports, there are
cases in which women have been housed naked in mixed cells with men,
stripped naked, stripped naked and forced to dance, their bodies
insulted and mocked or forced to stand in the sun naked. When the
method of torture consists of rape or
sexual assault, it is less likely that the victim will complain out
of fear and shame, thus leading to the negation of this violation and
the impunity of the torturer.

Violence against women in the family is also a grave problem in
Cameroon. Often the parents of the bride are paid a "bride price" by
the husband. This has led men to
regard their wife as property for which they have paid and the men
and his family feel entitled to the physical labour of the wife. It
makes it also extremely difficult for a
woman to divorce from her husband. OMCT noted that the Government has
failed to take decisive action to combat the problem, such as passing
legislation specifically
prohibiting domestic violence abuse or training officials so that
they understand the complexities of issues surrounding this type of
abuse. Moreover, there has been no
awareness raising campaign at the Government level in order to
eliminate domestic violence against women.

Overall, the government of Cameroon fails to protect women from
violence whether at the hands of private individuals or state
officials. OMCT's report concluded that while Cameroon has a duty
under international law to act with due diligence to prevent,
investigate, prosecute and punish all forms of violence against
women, irrespective of whether this violence is committed by public
or private individuals, this obligation has not been adequately
implemented at the national level.

For copies of the alternative report on "Violence against Women in
Cameroon" or for further information on OMCT's programme on Violence
against Women please contact Carin Benninger-Budel at + 41 22 809
4939 or
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