The Toufah Foundation released, “Who do you think you are? Women’s stories: unacknowledged or doubted,” a 25-minute documentary, offering a survivor’s perspective on the Gambia Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission’s (TRRC) public treatment of sexual and gender-based violence. The video is being released on International Women’s Day in line with its #ChooseToChallenge theme as a tribute to the many women in The Gambia who played a decisive role in toppling the Yahya Jammeh dictatorship.
The Toufah Foundation applauds the fact that the TRRC devoted a session on sexual violence in October 2019, set up a gender unit and offers psychological support to victims and survivors. However, the video, using documentary footage from TRRC proceedings and a first-person account powerfully demonstrates the silence and doubt around sexual and gender-based violence, and, in some cases, the protection for perpetrators.
“Women’s stories cannot be detached from the overall analysis of human rights abuses in The Gambia,” said Toufah Jallow. “If women’s experiences are looked at in isolation, the truth about the past will inevitably be one-dimensional and incomplete. When men talk, women’s stories remain invisible.”
Many voices – including the International Center for Transitional Justice and the African Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED) through its TRRC Digests – have called on the TRRC to offer an adequate focus and space for women’s experiences and highlighted shortcomings in the process.
The Toufah Foundation released recommendations to the TRRC alongside the video to urge greater inclusion of women’s voices in the remaining sessions of the TRRC as well as in the Commission’s final report, expected in mid-2021. These include:
* Schedule a session to investigate the use of rape in detention and by men in uniform – notably by inviting or re-inviting persons who have been adversely mentioned and systematically ask male witnesses from the security sector about their participation or knowledge of sexual violence.
* Investigate the killing of Mariama Camara, who was reportedly sexually exploited by Jammeh before being murdered.
* Release the names of alleged perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence that were kept confidential during the special session on sexual and gender-based violence.
“It is important to remember that truth commissions are not courts of law, where crimes have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt” said Marion Volkmann-Brandau a human rights lawyer who co-directed the documentary.
“Truth commissions are usually mandated to investigate the enabling conditions of abuse and identify patterns of human rights violations. So, just as a murder can be investigated without the victim, proving patterns of sexual violence does not necessarily require the audition of survivors, which can often be retraumatizing. Alleged perpetrators and enablers should be the ones to be asked about rape and sexual exploitation first.”
The documentary can be found on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
For more information please contact the Toufah Foundation at: Iamtoufahmovement@gmail.com or on WhatsApp at +2203463984