Refusing to Prosecute (or Even Define) Rape

If you are raped in the African country of Mauritania, government health documents will not mention the sexual nature of the violence and social welfare offices will call it “domestic violence”even if the rapist was of no relation. The United Nations news agency IRIN explains that “the only parts of the law that criminalize any sexual act are two articles prohibiting sex between unmarried persons. As a result, many alleged rape victims are accused of violating the law.” In a maddening and tragic twist, pregnancy can be seen as evidence of a woman’s crime. According to the Mauritanian Association for Maternal and Child Health, seven women have been imprisoned in 2009 on charges of violating the law prohibiting sex between unmarried persons. When approached by IRIN, a government official said the government of Mauritania was in the process of revising its penal code. Meanwhile, local journalist Nourra Mint Semane complains that her radio reports on rape have been censored. “For Mauritanian society,” she says, “rape is a shame that must be buried and the biggest ‘criminal’ is the victim herself.”

The United Nations set the bar for government treatment of sexual violence with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment ror Punishment.

Source: IRIN

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