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Jail fear prevents women in Mauritania from filing rape complaints

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Human rights activists are calling for a change to Mauritanian law so that women and girls who have been raped will not be prosecuted for sexual relations outside marriage.

Rape survivors are reluctant to file complaints in the west African country in case they are then charged, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Adultery is known as “zina” and, in theory, is punishable by flogging, jail terms, or death by stoning if the offender is married or divorced. Mauritania does not as a rule carry out corporal punishments, so flogging and death by stoning can transmute into being imprisoned indefinitely.

One case cited by HRW involved a 15-year-old girl who was imprisoned after being repeatedly gang-raped by four men who held her captive for two weeks, because one of the men – whom she knew – said he would marry her.

In another case, a prosecutor was reported as asking a rape survivor: “If you didn’t consent, why didn’t you tell your parents?” When the survivor said she knew the man who raped her, the prosecutor said: “All the things you are saying are lies, you did this willingly.”

Government statistics are not freely available, so it is impossible to know how many people are in jail for zina, but girls as well as adults are thought to have been imprisoned for the “offence”.

“Women and girls should not run the risk of jail or further stigma for reporting sexual abuse,” said HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson. “To combat sexual violence, Mauritania should require law enforcement and public health systems to stop treating victims as suspects, support them in seeking justice and recovery, and prosecute the perpetrators.”

Read also: Trial of spy who ‘offered sex for job’ puts strain on US- Russia ties

HRW called for the government to decriminalise and stop prosecuting and detaining people for zina, as well as to pass a law defining rape and criminalising all other forms of sexual violence.

The Mauritanian government responded at length to the report, saying that most incidents of sexual assault and domestic violence were against minors or adolescents. “Perpetrators are often individuals close to the victims or family members who exploit the innocence and immaturity of the above mentioned people to sexually abuse them,” the government statement said.

Life is not easy for many Mauritanian women and girls. The prevalence of female genital mutilation is 67%, some ethnic groups see domestic violence as a sign that a husband loves his wife, and many girls are sent away to “fat camps” in the desert to be force-fed, so that they put on large amounts of weight and fit Mauritanian notions of beauty.

Metro

‘Stop complaining, you’re not the only ones facing poverty,’ Tinubu tells Nigerians

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President Bola Tinubu has told Nigerians to stop complaining as they are not the only ones facing poverty and hardship in the world.

Tinubu, who gave the charge when he received a delegation from the National Assembly led by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, alongside the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, who came to felicitate with him on the occasion of Eid-el-Kabir in Lagos, said though there was poverty and suffering in the country, the challenges would not be tackled by complaining.

According to a statement on Tuesday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Ajuri Ngelale, the President said one of the ways of tackling the myriad of challenges in Nigeria is to eliminate banditry and terrorism so that farmers can return to the farm.

According to the President, it is imperative for Nigerians to have a change of value system for the nation to make progress.

“Yes, there is poverty; there is suffering in the land. We are not the only people facing such, but we must face our challenges,” Tinubu said.

“We must find a way to eliminate banditry and terrorism so that farmers can bring out food from the farmland.

“If you do not have good roads to bring the food to the population, even if you grow the food and you are losing 60-70 per cent to damages, you will pay the price,” the President added.

He also challenged Nigerians to have a change of mindset about the country if the nation is to overcome its current challenges.

“The need for some citizens to change the rent-seeking mindset and become more productive to the economy is a challenge. The need to stop smuggling and all economic sabotage.

“Why should we have people removing rail tracks and all that, stealing electric cables and sabotaging the economy?

“We must embrace the campaign to change our value system. We must tell our people that the challenge we face is for all of us to change our mindset about our country.

“It is daunting, but we cannot run away from the fact that this country must survive the hardship,” Tinubu stressed.

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Metro

Zambian Police bar political party leaders from attending church services

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The political crisis in Zambia took a new disturbing dimension on Sunday when heavily armed Police Officers stopped Presidents of political parties under the United Kwacha Alliance (UKA) coalition from attending various church services in the Copperbelt region.

Those affected, according to Zambian Monitor, include ex-president, Edgar Lungu, and New Heritage Party (NHP) president, Chishala Kateka, who were blocked from attending a designated church service where they had been initially invited but later managed to sneak into a Catholic Church.

Others affected by the police action were Presidents of Christian Democratic Party, Dan Pule, and National Congress Party leader, Peter Chanda, who were scheduled to worship at Christ the King Church in Kitwe but were turned away by police officers who escorted them out of Kitwe.

However, the UKA Chairperson, Sakwiba Sikota, and Zambia Republican Party leader, Wright Musoma, managed to escape the police dragnet and worshiped at Disciples Fellowship Ministries International (DFMI) in Ndola.

Citizens First President, Harry Kalaba, was in Chingola at St Peters and Paul’s Parish when alleged armed UPND cadres surrounded the parish.

Kalaba was later seen in a social media video being whisked away through the backdoor of the church, leaving behind his vehicles, and went to BIGOCA in Lulamba where the UPND cadres followed him again.

Speaking on the situation, Kalaba told journalists:

“In President Hakainde Hichilema’s regime, the Police have been summoning and arresting clergy critical of his government including disrupting meetings between priests and opposition political figures.”

UKA Chairperson for Communications, Jackson Silavwe, said it was worth noting that President Hichilema had never attended and officiated at the National Day of Prayer and Fasting with his UPND senior officials and members calling it a “useless” day when in the opposition.

“It is therefore, not surprising that the Zambia Police under President Hichilema’s government are showing the same gross contempt towards the clergy and churches who associate with critical voices,” he said.

Silavwe alleged that the heavy handedness by the Zambia Police of this magnitude towards clergy and the church had never been seen before in the history of Zambia, claiming Hichilema had once again scored another ‘first’ under his administration.

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