Gender-based violence is widespread in Benin. According to a survey conducted by the Benin Ministry of Family and National Solidarity in 2009, up to 70% of women and girls in Benin have experienced some form of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, rape, trafficking and female genital cutting.Pressure by Women’s groups and NGOs led to Act. No 2011-26 on the prevention and punishment of violence against women, enacted into law in January 2012. Much work, however, remains to be done on dissemination, implementation and enforcement. Knowledge of legal reforms within the larger population remains an issue and priority in the courts is not given to cases of violence against women.
According to Article 26 of the Constitution, as well as Article 3 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights (to which Benin is a signatory), women and men have equal right to own and administer non-land assets. Customary practices, however, limit women’s rights to own property. One of the principal issues that women face in owning and accessing land in Benin is a lack of available land. Inheritance is the primary means of gaining access to land, although according to customary law only men may inherit land. The Personal and Family codes address this issue in articles 1029 and 1030, stating that “all previous provisions contrary to this Code are hereby repealed,” and that “custom ceases to have force of law in all matters covered by this Code.” In addition, article 11 of the 2007 rural land code explicitly stipulates “all citizens of Benin have an equal right to access agricultural land without any discrimination on the basis of sex … under the conditions established by the law and regulations.” Yet only 13% of all land acquired with tenure belongs to women, and these are generally smaller in size than those owned by men. In an effort to promote tenure of rural land, the Benin Government has launched the Access to Land Project, part of the Millennium Challenge Account programme (MCA).
The Constitution recognises freedom of movement and access to public space as extending to all citizens. For some women, however, this freedom is constrained by practices of animist religions. The Oro and Zangbeto religions, for example, place restrictions on women’s movements during certain times. Women are required to remain locked inside on pain of physical punishment or even death should they be suspected of spying with the intention of revealing the group’s secrets. In addition, in some households, husbands restrict women’s freedom of movement: 45% of women reported that their husbands would only allow them to visit friends and relatives with their permission.The 2006 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) similarly reports that 30% of women declare that it is primarily their husband who decides whether she can visit her family and relatives.
Benin Ministry of Family and National Solidarity (2009) Violence Against Women in Benin: A Study Report of the Benin Ministry of Family and National Solidarity, October 2009, http://www.offebenin.org/documents/etude_sur_les_vff_rapport_final.pdf (accessed 1 October 2013).