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Benin

Violence against women

Violence against women is high, as 70% of women will be victims of violence in their lifetimes [1]. In 2018, 14.6% of women said they had suffered violence from a partner in the past 12 months [2]. Despite this, 16.2% of women thought that violence against a partner was acceptable [3]. The Peulh Tribe were the most accepting of violence against a partner, with 30% deeming it acceptable [4]. Similarly, people who followed traditional religions such as Islam had high acceptance rates at 25.8% [5].


Number of People Experiencing Domestic Abuse Each Year:

2019-2020: 13.9% of women reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner [6].

2013-2014: “28% of all women in sub-Saharan Africa reported experiencing violence … at the hands of their partners or family. This includes women subjected to beatings, forced marriage at an early age, sexual assault, “honour” crimes and female genital mutilation” [7].

No research on male victims or other gender identities.


Current Law and Policy:

Since passing the Act on the Prevention and Repression of Violence Against Women in January 2012, Benin has made no further commitments to tackling domestic violence. There was a lack of information about Benin’s more recent approach to domestic violence with most of the literature dating back to 2014.

The 2012 Act is fairly comprehensive and defines ‘domestic abuse’ broadly. Victims can seek recourse under the Act despite not having a formal or familial relationship with the perpetrator. If the case does, in fact, concern a domestic relationship, the perpetrator is punishable by an additional 5 to 10 years. The Act also requires the provision of emergency shelters and services for victims, as well as awareness-raising and education campaigns.

Despite this legislative progress, domestic violence is still prevalent in Benin. Women are reluctant to report instances of abuse due to fear of retaliation and social stigma, whilst many still see such “disputes” as a family matter. Traditional beliefs, perceptions and practices have led to domestic abuse being not just widely accepted but deeply rooted in many Beninese communities’. To put it into perspective, 69% of Beninese women surveyed in 2009, had suffered domestic abuse at least once in their life.[8]

In 2014, Benin recognised its “very poor enforcement of the legislation to promote women’s rights and gender equality” in the country. This is backed up by the fact that only a limited number of domestic abuse cases make it to court and reports that both the judiciary and the police are reluctant to intervene in domestic disputes. The police have also been criticised for not encouraging women to lodge complaints, which serves to reiterate the sentiment that Benin’s society rejects women who report domestic violence. The ineffectiveness of the police combined with official corruption and victims’ unwillingness to report cases has prevented any real enforcement of the 2012 Act from taking place.


Health

Maternal death is not uncommon, with 397 deaths per 100,000 births, of which 20% were caused by unsafe abortions [9]. 108 women aged between 15 and 19 per 1000 women had children before they reached adulthood in 2014 [10]. In 2018, 28% of women had their family planning needs met using modern contraception [11]. Sanitisation is a big issue, with only 20% of people having access to safe sanitation systems [12].


Education

Women have a higher literacy rate than men, at 42.4% compared to only 31.1% for men [13]. School completion rate is high at 77%, however in 2004 80% of girls dropped out of school due to pressure for sexual favours from fellow students and teachers [14]. Furthermore, 6 out of 10 girls stop going to school because of early sexual activites [15]. However, thanks to partnerships and support from the UN, primary school enrollment rates rose from 93% to 121%, and primary school completion rate rose from 65% to 77% [16].


Political representation

Women are underrepresented in Benin politics, in 2019 only 6% of the seats in the National Assembly were held by women [17]. Only 4.6% of seats held in local government bodies are held by women, and in 2021 women held only 8.4% of seats in the national parliament [18].


Economic

31.1% of women are employed but living in poverty [19]. Thankfully, 41% of mothers are receiving maternity benefits [20]. Through the support of a PFL project, the amount of land owned by women went up from 12% to 20% [21]. 28% of female led households are living in poverty, compared to 38% of households led by men [22].



Frontline Services:


 

Further Reading


[1] International Centre for Research on Women, “Costs of Intimate Partner Violence at the Household and Community Levels – An Operational Framework for Developing Countries”, (2004), Report, 5.

[2] Refworld, “Benin: Domestic Violence, including Availability of State Protection and Support Services (2009-2015)”, (refworld.org, 9 February 2016).

[3] OECD, “Benin”, (2019), Social Institutions and Gender Index.

[4] BMC Women’s Health, “Perception of Beninese on Intimate Partner Violence: Evidence from 2011-2012 Benin Demographic Health Survey”, (ncbi.nhm.nih.gov, 16 August 2018).

[5] United States Department of State, “2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Benin”, (2018), Report.

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