Darfuri Women’s Long Wait for Justice

South Darfuri women

Women in South Darfur

If you are anything like me, you first viewed the term “rape as a war weapon” with a bit of bewilderment.  A number of documentaries, books and articles would speak of ending this inhuman practice but not go so far as to really define it.  After all, I thought, if you asked a woman who had been both a victim of rape and a victim of  “rape as a war weapon” wouldn’t she probably say that she couldn’t tell the difference?  Rape is rape.  Shouldn’t we be aiming to end the commonality of sexual assaults in Darfur (and other African regions) in general and not waste time separating them into categories?  But the intended effect of rape as an instrument of war, or more accurately, an instrument of genocide, involves generational devastation to entire populations.  A 2004 study by Tara Gingerich, JD, MA and Jennifer Leaning, MD, SMH, finds the method aims to:

  1. Create a sense of fear in the civilian population in order to restrict freedom of movement and economic activity.
  2. Instill flight to facilitate the capture of land and the killing of male civilians.
  3. Demoralize the population and force exit from the land.
  4. Tear apart the community and pollute blood lines.

Despite many similar studies from both NGOs and government agencies attempting to form accurate statistics on the number of women raped in Darfur, there appears to be, almost literally, countless numbers.  It has been overwhelmingly expressed that:

We have no clear idea about the number of women and girls who have been raped in Darfur, in part because of the extraordinary reticence-for cultural and religious reasons-on the part of the women assaulted. (src)    Read more of this post

Darfur Sexual Abuse Unit Established

Darfur peacekeeping mission UNAMID plans to create a unit which will be “responsible for monitoring and reporting on investigations of crimes committed against women and children”.

UNAMID hopes that the unit will aid in “bringing justice to the victims”.

Rape has been used as a weapon of war in Darfur – physically and emotionally scarring countless innocent females. Some cases are reported. However, many are not.

“Trapped in Places of Perpetual Insecurity”

A recent study conducted by US-based Physicians for Human Rights reports that over 50% of Darfuri women at a refugee camp in Chad continue to feel threatened by sexual violence.

Many of these women experienced rape in Darfur, fleeing to Chad to escape suffering. Yet in Chad, their place of refuge, sexual violence is alive and well.

According to the deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights –

The women live in a nightmare of memories of past trauma compounded by the constant threat of sexual violence around the camps now…trapped in places of perpetual insecurity.

Regarding mass rape in Darfur, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir maintains that “there is no document or evidence, just accusations”.

Kristof Discusses Rape

Nicholas Kristof’s latest op-ed discusses rape – a weapon of war which often outlasts the war itself.

Put simply by Kristof –

Even when the fighting ends, the rape continues.

Sexual violence plagues several areas ripped apart by war – Congo, Sudan, Bosnia, Rwanda, Liberia – leaving a lasting impact on women, girls, men, boys, and children born out of such a crude violation of one’s rights as a human being.

A police officer from Liberia was interviewed as part of Kristof’s column. His words stayed with me –

Rape is a scar that the war left behind.

Rape – A Weapon of War

Today, an expert spoke with several US senators about a common weapon of war.

No, that weapon was not guns nor was it bombs. It was rape.

Rape is far too often used as a means of bringing down the enemy during a war – as is the case currently in Darfur and the Congo (DRC).

1100 rapes are reported in the Congo every month – that’s 36 women and girls victimized each day! And just think about the number of incidents that go unreported.

According to the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues –

Rape is employed as a weapon because it is effective…it destroys the fabric of society from within and does so more efficiently than do guns or bombs…the apparent purpose is to leave a lasting and inerasable signal to others that the woman has been violated.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice plans to travel to Africa to discuss the issue of rape in war-torn societies – an issue referred to as a “shame on the human race” by California senator Barbara Boxer.

Also today – the US was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Let’s hope we make the most of it.