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Domestic violence is biggest threat to West Africa's women, IRC says
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He kicks me all over my body, but not my head." She described how her husband withholds money from the family, leaving them without food. The women in the church hall urged her to go to the government's gender ministry, but Masue Horrace, the head of the group, became angry, saying she had no faith in the country's justice system. She desc- ribed the story of her friend; how she had the courage to report her abusive husband, but – because of his family's connections, and as her friend had no money – nothing happened. "She went to the law and t he law can't even help her," Horrace said. "So you think if that happened to me, I will go there too? No." The IRC report recognises the challenges of the legal systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. Establishing disciplined security forces after years of war is an enormous task for all three governments. It points to their "weak police forces", a "judicial infrastructure with limited reach outside of the main cities" and "hefty legal fees". In Liberia, irregular and low salaries for the police mean women often have to pay for the police officer's transport costs as well as their own. In some rural areas, fuel for the generators at police stations can be scarce – if there is a generator at all. Ivory Coast adopted a three-year action plan in 2010 targeting violence against women and girls. Liberia and Sierra Leone also have gender-based violence plans of action but the report calls for donors, UN ag- encies and NGOs to increase funding to help the governments enforce these policies. It applauds the adv- ances made in protecting women and girls but said specialised services such as safe houses, hotlines and support groups are needed, claiming a focus on prevention is not enough.
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