Gleichberechtigung der Geschlechter

Sexual and Gender-based Violence in the African Mining Sector

Golden Line Project

14.09.2020 |

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a human rights violation and a global problem affecting women, men, girls and boys all over the world. SGBV is a term that encompasses harmful acts perpetrated against a person's will, based on gender norms and unequal power relationships. Critical to understanding SGBV is the concept of gender relations - forms of power relations between women and men in a given society.

Achieving SDG 5 (Gender equality) is a quality criterion of the German development cooperation. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) actively promotes gender equality in the extractive sector. As part of the multi-stakeholder partnership Women's Rights & Mining (WRM), BMZ is working to encourage the most important interest groups in the mining sector to take a closer look at the issue of gender equality and to strengthen the rights of women and girls in the sector. Together with WRM, the GIZ Sector Programme Extractives and Development recently published a study commissioned by BMZ that sheds light on the issue of sexual and gender-based violence in the mining sector in Africa.

The study „Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Mining Sector in Africa - Evidence and Reflections from the DRC, South Africa, Tanzania & Uganda", examines potential links and causes of sexual and gender-based violence and the mining sector. In addition, connections between SGBV and current legislation, policy and practice in those four countries are analyzed and presented accordingly.

Important study results:

It is important to note that mining alone does not necessarily ‘cause' SGBV. One of the main hypotheses put forward in the literature is that increased mining activities in a given area lead to structural changes, be it through increased cash flows or labour migration, which in turn increas the risk of SGBV. Many communities have underlying inequalities that pre-date the arrival of an extractive operation. Thus, mining activity is understood to have an exacerbating, amplifying or altering effect on SGBV.

How does SGBV manifest in women's different roles or domains in relation to the mining sector?

  • Sexual harassment appears to be the main form of violence within Large-Scale Mining (LSM) operations. Women employees feel they are not in a position to say no to ‘advances' by male employees as this could result in job loss or denial of promotion.
  • In artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), SGBV is even more present. This includes the exchange of sexual favors, for example to get help from men in crushing hard rock or to gain access to the mining area at all.
  • Women as community members experience mainly domestic violence as an expression of unequal power relations and structural changes that mining brings to the area. Increased cash flows, labor migration or the loss of livelihoods through forced resettlement can increase the risk of domestic violence against women.
  • While women as activists are exposed to the same risks as men, they face additional threats such as verbal abuse, harassment and rape, which are shaped by gender stereotypes. 

Although laws have been passed at international and national level, they do not always work properly or as intended. Also, many of the women affected are still unaware, or not sufficiently aware of their rights. Provisions to safeguard children from mine sites in Uganda allegedly led to women having to perform sexual favours or pay bribes in order to have their children with them. They otherwise had to remove older children, often girls, from school to care for younger siblings. Meanwhile in DRC, supposedly 'protective' legislation has excluded all pregnant women from the mining area, regardless of the type of activity they were carrying out and there have been reports of officials either inadvertently or purposefully misinterpreting the law and preventing breastfeeding women from taking part in ASM activities.

What can be done in the future?

Women are not purely victims of the mining sector however, nor are they a homogenous group in their experiences. Many women choose to work in the mining sector or in adjacent occupations. SGBV is a form of structural violence that hinders some women from doing their work safely and free from violence. The study offers 26 recommendations for government, private sector, donor and civil society stakeholders, designed to combat SGBV and strengthen the role of women and girls in the mining sector. Finally, it is crucial to recognise that whilst there are risks of SGBV in the mining sector, these risks should not be construed as a reason to prevent women from accessing economic opportunity in or around mining operations.

On September 8, a webinar organized by WRM on the topic of SGBV in the Mining Sector took place. The recording can be viewed here.

For further information please contact Lisa Stellner.

Sexual and Gender-based Violence in the Mining Sector in Africa

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