HRW addresses silent scourge
Women and girls in Mauritania who are raped are often unwilling to report the crime out of fear that they themselves will be jailed for breaking the West African nation's strict laws on sex outside marriage, Human Rights Watch has noted. In a report based on interviews with dozens of rape victims as well as NGOs and government officials, the rights group said Mauritanian law as well as family and police hostility strongly discouraged them from denouncing their attackers. It said the legal code does not define rape or address the notion of consent and victims who cannot prove the assault risk being charged with conducting sex outside marriage. If convicted, the women face long prison terms and banishment by their family or community in Mauritania, one of the poorest countries in the world. Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's director for North Africa and the Middle East called for law enforcement and public health systems ‘to stop treating victims as suspects, support them in seeking justice and recovery, and prosecute the perpetrators’.