Hundreds of civil society activists participated in a protest vigil against rape in the Blue Nile state capital Ed Damazin on Monday. The action was part of a campaign against gender-based violence, organised by Blue Nile civil society organisations.
Following a gang-rape of a woman (30) north of neighbouring Roseires by five young men during the fasting month of Ramadan, various Blue Nile civil society organisations decided it was time to act and call on the authorities to arrange for adequate interventions for victims of sexual violence.
Dr Samia El Torbi, lecturer at the Blue Nile University and social activist, told Radio Dabanga last week that the state is witnessing “an increase in sexual, verbal, and physical crimes against women despite the revolutionary gains and the democratisation”. She stressed the need “to immediately prosecute the perpetrators and impose maximum penalties on them”.
Preparations for the campaign took place over the weekend, at the office of the Feminist Awareness Initiative in Ed Damazin. The participants also spoke about the situation of the gang-rape victim and ways to provide support to her and her family.
Representatives of the Kafa Development Organisation stated they are willing to provide psychological support in coordination with the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Unit and the Ed Damazin Centre for Counselling and Psychological Trauma.
Lawyers present pledged to arrange legal support with the help of the Humanitarian Organisation for Legal Aid.
The participants in the meeting further discussed the demonstration that would march to the Ministry of Justice, where a vigil would be held. They would also hand a memorandum to the acting Blue Nile State Governor Jamal Abdelhadi.
The memo urged the opening of prosecution offices in all localities of the state. Public prosecutors should do more to investigate cases of rape and gender-based violence. Psychological and social support must be widely available for survivors of gender-based violence.
The civil society organisations further called for early warning mechanisms in addition to community awareness campaigns “to remove the stigma that causes families to hide the crime” and encourage people to report gender-based violence to the police, and protect them against repercussions from the perpetrators. In addition, the capabilities of people working in the areas of psychological and social support should be enhanced.
Furthermore, the Blue Nile state government must take urgent steps to fight the insecurity in the region. A new law should regulate the public transportation in rural areas (often arranged privately by young men on motorcycles)
After having received the memo, Governor Abdelhadi affirmed “the state government's commitment to addressing all crimes that threaten the safety of society”. He lauded the role of civil society organisations in “their efforts to eradicate negative phenomena in general, and crimes targeting women in particular”.
The activists' delegation emphasised the importance to cooperate with the authorities “in providing the necessary guarantees for the protection of women wherever they are”.
Written in cooperation with Waleed Ali Adam, free-lance journalist based in Ed Damazin