NAIROBI, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Lawmakers drawn from the Sub-Saharan Africa region on Wednesday urged governments to enforce punitive legislation and invest in awareness campaigns against sexual violence that is rampant in urban slums.
Marie R Nguini-Effa, a female lawmaker from Cameroon said at a forum in Nairobi that sexual violence perpetrated against vulnerable women and girls in Africa should be eradicated through law enforcement and affirmative policies aimed at empowering the female gender.
"We call upon our governments to give attention to gender-based and sexual violence that violates the rights and dignity of women and young girls living in our informal settlements," said Nguini-Effa.
She spoke at the ninth Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR2020) underway in Nairobi where delegates including policymakers, elected leaders, campaigners and researchers are discussing new strategies to boost the reproductive health of African youth, women and girls.
The week-long conference whose theme is "advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in urban informal settlements," has identified female genital cut, early marriages and gender-based violence as impediments to the realization of gender equality in Africa.
Ruth Labode, a Zimbabwean lawmaker and chair of the parliamentary health committee, said there is an urgency to tackle pervasive sexual violence targeting women and girls living in Africa's urban slums.
"It is evident that women and girls residing in our shanty towns are suffering in silence despite rampant sexual violence visited upon them by male peers," said Labode.
She said that poverty, illiteracy and patriarchy are to blame for gender-based violence that has undermined efforts to achieve gender parity in many African countries.
"We need to empower champions who are advocating for stiffer laws to protect women and girls at risk of sexual violence," said Labode, adding that education for the girl child coupled with greater economic opportunities for women is key to reduce gender-based violence in Africa.
Lanre Tejuoso, a male lawmaker from Nigeria said that African governments should earmark funds to aid treatment and emotional support for victims of sexual violence.