The home should be a safe space for girls
Gender based violence (GBV) continues to be one of the biggest barriers to the development of women, particularly girls are hit unproportionally hard. The violence takes various forms, the most common are physical aggression, sexual violence, forced unions and many others forms of violence and discriminatory practices that affects women’s freedom and autonomy.
Mozambique has a legal framework that criminalize some forms of violence against women, punishable by law, within these legal instruments: the Family Law, the Human Trafficking Law, especially of Women and Children, the Law for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, the Law Against Forced Unions and the Law on Domestic Violence against women. It’s visible how the number of women and girls who are victims of violence is increasing.
Recently, UNDE started an initiative at a primary school Acordos de Roma, located in the outskirts of Maputo, aiming to support girls who are victims of sexual violence. The activity was included in the lectures where UNDE informed about themes relating to sexual harassment, sextortion and other forms of corruption in schools (practices that are vehicles for other forms of violence against girls), through the stories told by girls at the school we found out about several cases of sexual violence and physical aggression perpetrated by relatives of these girls. One of the most alarming cases, was the case of Maria Carlos (this is not her real name).
Maria is 14 years old; she lives in the neighborhood of Mahotas and currently attends 7th grade at Acordos de Roma. She was born at Gaza Province but was brought to her paternal uncle in Maputo after her parents died. Worried about his niece’s vulnerability, the uncle decided to bring her to live with him. Maria tells us that all was well during the first two first years. Her uncle took care of her like a daughter. However, everything changed when the uncle’s wife abandoned him, leaving Maria alone in the house with him. She says that one night, he approached her room and took off her covers, when she woke up, she asked what he as doing there. He said that he only wanted to sleep together with her once because his wife had abandoned him. She says she thought it was normal, so much so that she made room for him to snuggle up. However, this was repeated night after night, until one of those nights, he abused Maria sexually and threatened her, saying that if she told anyone about what had happened, he would be arrested, and she would be alone without no one to support her. Scared, she said she gave in to the threat, and the abuse continued. “I was his wife every night”, says Maria.
In one of the sessions held by UNDE at Maria’s school, on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, issues relating to puberty, the first period, early pregnancies, abstinence, and the correct use of condoms were addressed. At the end of the session Maria approached the activist and said that she was feeling pains in her genitals and that a smelly, yellow liquid was coming out. To be able to understand why, the activist asked her some questions. One of them was if she had started being sexually active. Maria started to cry and revealed that yes, but without her consent. The activist referred Maria to UNDE’s psychologist who talked to her and then accompanied her to the hospital. There, they did some examinations, which proved that she had been raped and that she had Gonorrhea.
After this, UNDE reported the case to the police together with the School Board. Maria’s uncle is now facing charges of abuse against minors. He is detained, pending trial. Maria has moved to her maternal grandmother’s house and is under treatment for the STI. UNDE continues to provide psychological support so she can get over the trauma and move on to follow her dreams.
“How to protect a girl from someone who promised her protection?”
Written by Haidate Adamo Bacar from UNDE