Sexual abuse and access to justice for rural women in West Africa
This research takes place within the context of several major overlapping factors in West Africa: a democratization process that, in principle, includes equal access to public services - including justice - for all citizens; the existence of formal legal systems, national and international, conducive to the protection of women from sexual abuse; and the informal legal system. Access to justice in this region still remains a major challenge, especially for rural women, who are typically far away from legal infrastructure, which illustrates a significant gap between the de jure and de facto situations. Furthermore, existing research shows that the actions taken by women's rights organizations to prevent these crimes do not adequately help those who are the most marginalized - namely, rural women - who make up nearly 40% of the total population and more than 50% of the rural population in the region. Yet, accumulated knowledge shows that effective access to justice can be an effective way to prevent and reduce sexual abuse of women. This project aims to generate probative data on how, within a context of coexisting formal and informal justice systems, to promote justice for rural women who are victims of sexual abuse in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, while at the same time making public institutions more accountable. More specifically, this project will involve the African Network for Integrated Development (ANID) and its partners taking a participatory research-action approach, and combining qualitative and quantitative methods to produce a knowledge base regarding sexual abuse and the constraints on access to justice in rural areas. The data gathered will be used to develop alternative and realistic models for access to justice, specifically through empowering women to help prevent and challenge the impunity of sexual abuse against rural women in these countries.