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Cameroon: How a hashtag became a rallying cry against sexual violence

Cameroon: How a hashtag became a rallying cry against sexual violence
For illustration purposes: Demonstrators hold up banners in Sandton, Johannesburg, Friday Sept. 13, 2019, as they protest against gender-based violence.   -  
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Allegations of rape, pimping and sexual exploitation have kept Cameroonian netizens on tenterhooks. A hashtag on Twitter has gathered over 100,000 posts on what has become a scandal.

Was a man given a blank to abduct, threaten, rape, and sometimes confine illegally women and men without ever being questioned by the police during decades?

Anonymous testimonies of women and men have emerged on social media in Cameroon after activist @N'ZUI MANTO shared the testimony of an alleged victim who accused the heir of a rich and influential construction company of violence.

After the initial claim posted on January 19, dozens of testimonies were published under the hashtag #StopBopda. Influencers were accused of acting as pimps and some members of the security forces were accused covering up depositions for years.

Social media users have called the public prosecutor to launch an investigation and a petition has garnered over 13,000 signatures. Some netizens are however sceptical about the capacity and the willingness of the central African nation’s judicial system to properly handle accusations in cases of violence against women.

According to a UNFP report, 979,000 people were estimated in need of protection from gender-based violence in 2022 in Cameroon.

Social issue

In Cameroon, 39% of women aged 15-49 have been physically abused since the age of 15, usually by someone close to them.

The law of silence has prevailed for years. 

Speaking in 2022 to UN Women, Cameroon's Minister for the Promotion of Women and the Family was optimistic about change. 

Marie-Thérèse Abena Ondoa said that "despite the law of silence, the percentage of reported cases is increasingly high with a prevalence of over 40%. One woman in three has been a victim of physical, sexual, or psychological violence in her lifetime”.

Organisation Women in Entrepreneurship (WETECH) created AlertGBV in 2023. The app is aimed to help gender-based violence survivors.

According to RFI, at least one complaint was launched against the alleged serial rapist. The man has reportedly launched a case in defamation.

Following the latest scandal, calls are growing for the Cameroonian youth to mobilise on Feb. 11th, which marks the national day of the youth as well as on International Women’s Day (Mar. 8).

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