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Recent Victories for Women's Rights in Muslim Cameroon
A remarkable documentary about the landmark achievements of the Women Lawyers Association (WLA) of Kumba, in southwest Cameroon, in legally safeguarding the rights of women and children from acts of domestic violence. In this Muslim culture, where men have always been sovereign over women, according to Sharia law, one can well imagine the difficulty of imposing secular legal rights for women and children. After 17 years of failed efforts, leaders of the WLA began recently to score a few wins, and the purpose of this film is to share these victorious stories.
The leaders of this legal reform movement are Vera Ngassa, a state prosecutor, and Beatrice Ntuba, a senior judge (Court President). Both play themselves in this film, which may contain footage shot spontaneously, though I imagine much of it, if not all, consists of subsequent recreations of real events for the camera. Four cases are reviewed, and all of the plaintiffs also play themselves in the film.
Two cases involve repeated wife beating, with forcible sex in one case; another involves forced sex upon a 10 year old girl; and yet another concerns the repeated beatings of a child, age 8, by an aunt. One of the beaten wives also is seeking a divorce. We follow the cases from the investigation of complaints to the outcomes of the trials. The outcomes in each case are favorable to the women and children. The perpetrators receive stiff prison terms and/or fines; the divorce is granted.
The aggressive prosecution of the child beating aunt demonstrates that these female criminal justice officials are indeed gender-neutral when it comes to enforcing the law. Also noteworthy is the respect with which all parties, including those found guilty, are treated. This is a highly important and well made film. (Of interest is the fact that one of the directors, Ms. Longinotto, also co-directed the 1998 film, Divorce, Iranian Style, which dealt with related themes in Tehran.) (In broken English with English subtitles). My Grade: B+ 8/10
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