The Global Persecution of Women
Nigeria. Rape - the Silent Weapon,” Amnesty International, 28 Nov. 2006.
Rape is a form of gender-based violence against women. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women stated in its General Recommendation No. 19 that gender-based violence is a form of discrimination which the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) requires its states parties to eliminate in all its forms. …
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW) states that the term "violence against women" means ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’ DEVAW specifies that rape, marital rape and sexual abuse are forms of violence against women. Article 2(c) makes clear that ‘Physical, sexual and psychological acts of violence perpetrated or condoned by the State wherever it occurs’ also fall within the definition of violence against women. In order to take all measures to eliminate violence against women States must ‘refrain from engaging in violence against women’( Article 4(b)) and exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons’. (Article 4c)
Human Rights Watch, "Summary," "We'll Kill You if You Cry": Sexual Violence in the Sierra Leone Conflict. January 2003.
Rape in wartime is an act of violence that targets sexuality. Moreover, conflict-related sexual violence serves a military and political strategy. The humiliation, pain, and fear inflicted by the perpetrators serve to dominate and degrade not only the individual victim but also her community. Combatants who rape in war often explicitly link their acts of sexual violence to this broader social degradation.
“Crimes against Women in War and Armed Conflict” from UNIFEM, Violence Against Women – Facts and Figures. Downloaded from http://unifem.org/attachments/gender_issues/violence_against_women/facts_figures_violence_against_women_200611.pdf, 16 Feb. 2007.
The victims in today's armed conflicts are far more likely to be civilians than soldiers. Some 70 per cent of the casualties in recent conflicts have been non-combatants — most of them women and children. Women’s bodies have become part of the battleground for those who use terror as a tactic of war — they are raped, abducted, humiliated and made to undergo forced pregnancy, sexual abuse and slavery. Violence against women during or after armed conflicts has been reported from many countries or areas, including Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Chechnya/Russian Federation, Darfur, Sudan, northern Uganda and the former Yugoslavia . In Rwanda, up to half a million women were raped during the 1994 genocide. The numbers were as high as 60,000 in the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Equally, in Sierra Leone, the number of incidents of war-related sexual violence among internally displaced women from 1991 to 2001 was as high as 64,000 . When the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women visited the Darfur region in Sudan in 2004, she received testimonies of women and girls who have suffered multiple forms of violence committed by government-backed militia and security forces, including rape, killings, the burning of homes and pillage of livestock. Displaced women and girls living in refugee camps have reported rapes, beatings and abductions that occur when they leave the camps for necessities. Victims of rape have faced numerous obstacles in accessing justice and health care, for instance, being accused of having made false accusations, having had consensual sex before marriage, or having committed adultery in violation of the Penal Code .
A 2002 UNIFEM-sponsored report on the issue quoted a UN official in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on the terror of daily life for people in the region: “From Pweto down near the Zambian border right up to Aru on the Sudan/Uganda border, it's a black hole where no one is safe and where no outsider goes. Women take a risk when they go out to the fields or on a road to a market. Any day they can be stripped naked, humiliated and raped in public. Many, many people no longer sleep at home, though sleeping in the bush is equally unsafe. Every night, another village is attacked. It could be any group, no one knows, but they always take away women and girls" .
Protection and support for women survivors of violence in conflict and post-conflict areas is woefully inadequate. Access to social services, protection, legal remedies, medical resources, and places of refuge is limited despite the valiant efforts of numerous local NGOs to provide assistance. A climate of impunity further exacerbates the situation, ensuring that perpetrators go unpunished and free to continue their acts of violence. It is evident that much more effort is needed from governments and the international community to strengthen mechanisms to investigate, report, prosecute and remedy violence against women.
— The UN Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women supported a project to train female ex-combatants in Rwanda — many of whom had been victims of sexual violence during the armed conflict — on women’s human rights and violence against women. The training provided participants with a safe space to speak about their experiences of violence and trauma. It also empowered the women to play a leading role in the fight against sexual violence against women and HIV/AIDS in their communities.
(38) Referred to by General Assembly, In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General, 2006. A/61/122/Add.1. 6 July 2006. 45.
(39) Vlachova, Biason (editors). Women in an Insecure World. Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. 2005.
(40) Yakin Erturk. Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women. Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Addendum. Visit to the Darfur region of the Sudan. E/CN.4/2005/72/Add.5. 23 December 2004. 3.
(41) Rehn, E., and Sirleaf Johnson, E., The Independent Experts' Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and the Role of Women in Peace-building, Progress of the World's Women, Vol.1, 2002, UNIFEM.
”Peacekeeping's Unsavory Side,” Peacewomen, 15 June 2003.
Modern conflicts have an enormous impact on civilian populations, possibly greater than was the case in the past. Violations of the rights of women in war situations, for example, through sexual violence against women and girls seems endemic.
”French troops in Ivorian sex row,” BBC News, 20 May 2005.
Four French peacekeepers are being investigated over accusations of sexual abuse against a girl in Ivory Coast.
The French army said it received a complaint that the four abused the girl at Madinani village, in northern Ivory Coast, earlier this month.
Neither the girl's age or identity, nor the soldiers' names, were disclosed.
Some 4,000 French soldiers are serving alongside 6,000 UN troops in the former French colony, which has been divided by a two-and-a-half year rebellion.
The French said there was as yet no evidence to confirm the allegations.
"We will treat this affair with the greatest seriousness if the facts are established," army spokesman Colonel Henry Aussavy told Reuters news agency.
It is the first allegation of its type against French soldiers in Ivory Coast. UN peacekeepers have recently been accused of sex crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Relations have been strained between the French and Ivory Coast governments since peacekeepers were sent in to patrol a buffer zone dividing government and rebel territory.
Some supporters of the Ivorian government have accused French forces of siding with the rebel forces based in the north.
Tensions came to a head last November, when nine French soldiers were killed in a government bombing raid.
The French retaliated by destroying most of Ivory Coast's air force.
Ivory Coast, once a paragon of stability and prosperity in West Africa, has been crippled by the rebellion that erupted in 2002.
A recent South African-backed peace deal, and the prospect of elections in October, has raised hopes of an end to the conflict.
Emily Wax, "Desperate "one-dollar girls" exploited by U.N. forces in Congo," Washington Post, 24 Mar. 2005.
BUNIA, Congo — She's known in the community as a "one-dollar U.N. girl." At night, she sleeps on the cracked pavement outside a storefront. In the mornings, she sashays through the dusty streets, clutching a frayed parasol against the blinding sun.
Yvette and her friends are also called kidogo usharatis, Swahili for small prostitutes. They loiter outside the camps of U.N. peacekeepers, hoping to sell their bodies for a mug of milk, a cold soda or — best of all — a single dollar.
"I'm sad about it. But I needed the dollars. I can't go farm because of the militias. Who will feed me?" asked Yvette. At 14, she has a round face with wide eyes beneath a cap of neatly shorn hair, and her hands rest on her hips in an older girl's pose.
When Yvette was 10, a militiaman raped her, leaving her without clothes, she recalled. She cried a lot, wrapped her body in rags and then got up. She sought counseling at a women's organization, where she was told that she had done nothing wrong but that the theft of her virginity made her worthless as a bride. She should understand, the counselors said, that now no man would marry her.
Yvette's story is not uncommon. The United Nations is investigating 150 instances in which 50 peacekeeping troops or civilians in the Congo mission are suspected of having sexually abused or exploited women and girls, some as young as 12.
Often, the victims were vulnerable, poverty-stricken girls engaged in what Congolese call "obligation" or "survival" sex. In this war-shattered society, aid workers and counselors said, a breakdown of cultural norms, combined with extreme poverty, have driven hundreds of kidogo usharatis to the soldiers' doorsteps.
Similar charges have been made about U.N. missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as Kosovo and Bosnia in Europe.
The United Nations is also investigating reports of rape or sexual assault in Congo, including one case in which a French logistics employee was found with hundreds of videotapes that showed him torturing and sexually abusing naked girls. Last week, U.N. officials announced they had fired one employee and suspended six others from among 17 civilian staff members being investigated in the Congo abuses.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Sunday unveiled new rules for the United Nations that, in part, address the reports of sexual misconduct by its personnel.
But the problem of sex for money is more widespread, officials and health experts said.
In Congo, the widespread incidence of sexual violence by roving militias during the civil war that raged from 1997 to 2003 has created a crisis in many families where long-standing marriage and sexual customs are revered.
In much of rural Africa, as in many other traditional societies, a girl's virginity has high monetary value. If a prospective bride is proved not to be a virgin, she cannot fetch a traditional bride price for her family. Even if virginity has been lost through rape, a girl is considered unworthy of marriage.
According to health experts, the sale of sexual services by girls and women who may have lost their chance for a marriage payment has become common across the region.
"There are cases of rape by the U.N. But much more than that, there are many cases where girls negotiated obligation sex. In war, it is only soldiers who have money," said Petronila Vaweka, the district administrator of Ituri. "These girls have absolutely no way to make a living. This is their reality, and in some cases, the parents even push it."
Vaweka said she has considered starting a U.N. victims' association for young girls left with children, and in some cases venereal diseases or HIV/AIDS. U.N. officials expressed concern that poor, desperate girls would make up stories to claim cash. But so far, few have come forward at all because of the deep scorn involved.
"We can try the compensation idea," Vaweka said. "But I want to know, can you have compensation for a wound in the heart?"
Five years ago, more than 10,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops came to Congo to help end a six-nation war that had left over 3 million people dead. Contingents from Morocco, South Africa, India, Nepal and Bangladesh erected camps that looked quite posh to the Congolese. They had shiny trailers and roomy tents, satellite dishes, and kitchens and bathrooms with electricity and running water — amenities rarely seen in the impoverished bush.
To Congolese girls living in squalid camps or squatting in abandoned buildings, the peacekeepers were wealthy men they wanted to know.
Even though the war officially ended in 2003, life in Congo remains violent and precarious, especially in the volatile Ituri region where seven militia groups are still fighting. In Bunia, the regional capital, people grab at any opportunity to survive. Orphaned boys sleep in filthy gutters. A medical student peddles dried meat to pay his school fees. Girls and women beg foreign workers to let them perform any chore — washing laundry, polishing shoes, hauling water or providing sex — for a few coins.
"Abuse always stems from an unbalanced power relationship. There is so much abject poverty here, and people come in with economic leverage. That's a recipe for this to happen if we don't have a specific policy," said Kemal Saiki, a spokesman for the U.N. mission.
But even after the United Nations established a curfew for its troops and a strict policy of nonfraternization with the local population, the girls have continued to linger outside the U.N. camps.
Sex for food
Chantal, 17, stood sullenly outside a Moroccan troop camp one recent evening, clutching a tray of bananas. She was hawking the fruit — and her body — to soldiers perched inside a lookout post.
"To us they are the town's best employer," she said with a shrug. "I know everyone is saying it's bad. But why don't they come and give us jobs? Tell me, who will feed me?"
Earlier in the day, Moroccan soldiers inside the camp said any illicit behavior that might have taken place is now over. Moroccan officials recently fired two unit commanders and said they sent six soldiers home to be prosecuted after finding allegations against them to be credible.
There also have been tensions between the small group of soldiers who buy sex and the majority who don't, the peacekeepers said.
"As a human being, I feel there is too much poverty here, and maybe some people took advantage of that," said Lt. Charaf Arsalane, 23. "But I feel really affected by this. We are out here working hard, and a few people ruin the reputations of all. It has to stop completely, and that means turning away from some of the girls even if it's an innocent interaction."
Even so, Chantal and Yvette said that if they ran out of food, they would head back to the U.N. camps.
Most people in rural Congo are farmers, but they can no longer tend their fields because militiamen roam the countryside. As a result, food shortages are rampant. A study by the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders found that clean water and food rations from international aid agencies were insufficient to meet the people's needs.
But Congo's suffering, the group said, has fallen low on the world's priority list. Last year, according to the International Rescue Committee, $188 million was spent on humanitarian aid in Congo. That amounted to just over $3 per person, compared with $89 per person in Sudan and $138 per person in Iraq the previous year.
"The ugly fact is, many girls engaged in obligation sex when the war got really bad in 2003, and it was mainly with U.N. soldiers because they have the money," said Antoine Tambwe, a Congolese pediatrician at the International Red Cross hospital here.
Many girls told Tambwe they were "really sorry they did it, some even in U.N. cars, but they were too hungry," he said. "Sometimes they said many peacekeepers would have sex with one girl in the same night, and she would get one dollar from each. It's not rape, but it's close, because it's exploitation of children. This is really sad, but this is the truth."
”Peacekeeping's Unsavory Side,” Peacewomen, 15 June 2003.
June 9, 2003 – (UN Wire) Among the uglier stories surrounding international peacekeeping in recent years is that U.N. operations too often fuel booms in local prostitution, frequently involving women abducted or duped by criminal trafficking gangs to be forced into brothels. Sadly, there are also documented cases of peacekeepers -- a minority, to be sure -- who sexually abuse local people whom they are sent to protect.
"AWID Presentation: New Tools for Changing Old Strategies in Combating Violence against Women" Stop Violence Against Women, downloaded 3 Feb. 2007.
Isis-WICCE used a variety of tools to investigate and document what happened to women during armed conflict, including tape recorders, video cameras, and still cameras. Thus, they were able to provide both audio and visual testimonies of the physical, mental, psychological and economic consequences of war on women.
Through their work, they documented the effects of sexual violence on women’s lives, which included ruptured uteruses, vasico vaginal fistulae, sexually transmitted infections; the loss of homes and forced displacement, lack of appropriate clothing and other basic necessities of life, as well as impoverished living. Maiming and mutilation also took place during armed conflicts. One example that Juliet provided was the chopping off of women’s lips as a punishment due to the stereotype that “women talk too much.” Perpetrators also targeted the wives of administrative officers by amputating their limbs. Not only was there great loss of life, but others were also forced to commit murder: “While in captivity, even shy girls were forced to murder those condemned to die. They had to kill while others were looking on.”
Gang rape was common, and one woman was gang raped by 21 men; she finally died of HIV/AIDS. Girls and women experienced other forms of sexual abuse and harassment: “Later all the girls that were abducted and defiled or raped were married off to rebel leaders or used for general sexual service to rebels. Some commanders were reported to have 4 to 5 wives while the rebel leader himself had over 30 wives at any one time.” Consequently, many women suffer from reproductive and health problems: “…. I was 30 years old… six soldiers found me hiding and raped me one after another …. This lasted for about three hours. I could not talk. My relatives discovered me later, soaked in blood, urine, feces and men’s semen. I was torn everywhere and developed backache. Before I recovered, I was again gang raped at a military checkpoint. This time 15 soldiers raped me. This left me shattered. I was once again torn to an extent that I could not control my biological functions. The cervix was dislocated and the uterus started hanging out. … I have to push it back in. My vaginal part and anus are separated by just a thread of flesh and when I get diarrhea, I defecate from both the front and behind. Oozing of water and blood has continued up to today despite the medical treatment I obtained. The fluid is sometimes mixed with pus …. I use a small pad. The men say I am not fit for them and hence I do not get satisfied … I cannot deliver without professional assistance.” Women lived in areas that were isolated with very poor infrastructure and had no form of access to any communication channels. Some, due to the traumatic experiences, poor health and high level of poverty, could not even go to church or any village meetings.
Juliet noted that their engaging in activism in armed conflict was sparked due to their experience talking to the women and listening to such shocking and depressing stories. It gave them the passion to act and mobilize other parties to do something immediately. They packaged the findings using different ICTs to attract different actors to respond to the needs of survivors of conflict.
Adolfo Castro, “Sexual Aggression As A Method Of War,” Lapress.Org, 16 Dec. 2004.
December 16, 2004 - (LatinAmerica Press) Women combatants are even sexual victims of their own armen colleagues. Armed groups direct their violence against the civilian population, especially women.
Armed groups direct their violence against the civilian population, especially women.
Sexual and gender violence is not a new phenomenon in Colombia. It has been a constant occurrence in the country’s history and a characteristic of the 40-year-old armed conflict between state forces and far right paramilitary allies and leftist guerrillas groups, in which each side disputes territory and economic resources.
According to a recent report of Amnesty International (AI), sexual abuse is the most generalized practice of violence against the civilian population, particularly against women, followed by executions, mutilation and the cutting up of corpses.
In addition to the domestic violence of which 60,000 women were victims in 2003, 52.3 percent of whom were displaced women — according to figures from the United National High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) — armed groups are accustomed to converting women into "war trophies" after recruiting or kidnapping them, with the aim of taking revenge, in the case of an adversary, and using them as sexual slaves. Female combatants are forced to use birth control methods and carry out an abortion in the case of pregnancy.
In this framework, rape has been a habitual method of torture or a way of doing harm to the "enemy’s honor."
Human rights defenders say that the cases of rape are much higher than the number reported. In spite of the often visible signs on their bodies, these details rarely show up on the forensic reports. Few perpetrators appear before the courts for human rights violations and even fewer for crimes of sexual violence.
The AI report entitled "Marked bodies, silenced crimes," reveals that in 2003 alone, 220 Colombian women were assassinated and 20 disappeared "outside areas of combat due to socio-political motives."
Security forces were responsible for 5 percent of these deaths, paramilitary 26 percent and the guerrilla 16 percent. In the rest of the cases, those responsible were not identified.
"They have sexually abused or exploited women, civilian as well as their own combatants, trying to control the most intimate spheres of their lives," the report said.
The guerrillas have even demanded that women stop having love relationships with those considered to be direct adversaries or they would be considered "military targets."
Similar threats are carried out by paramilitary fighters. In these cases, they accuse the women of being guerrillas, although they are not. The testimonies give accounts of atrocious crimes, which according to their family members were carried out by these groups.
Forced disappearances, murders of pregnant women, collective rapes, physical mutilations to indigenous girls and other crimes are the common denominator in the accounts gathered by AI in different regions of the country.
The most publicized case this year was that of the bacteriologist Rina Bolaños, who was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and during her captivity became a victim of a rape by a guerrilla commander.
In the last 10 years, there has been an increase in reports of attacks that have included rape against the civilian population as a way of punishing residents accused of collaborating with the guerrillas, generating terror or provoking the flight of entire communities from a determined zone of military or economic interest.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Violence, denounced that "often sexual aggression is practiced as a way of humiliating the adversary. It is a battle among men that is carried out in the bodies of women."
According to the UN Development Program (UNDP), since 2000 the number of women murdered in the zones of conflict has increased annually by 20 percent.
According to AI, the fact that the cases are investigated within the system of military justice facilitates the cover-up of cases. It also maintains that the current policy of "democratic security" has increased the dangers.
The Colombian state "has done very little to put basic services in place and emergency procedures within the reach of those who survive sexual violence," the report said.
It details that the main providers of these services are currently non-governmental and private organizations that work with victims of violence in Colombia. Although they acknowledge that that some spheres of government promote programs against sexual violence "such efforts do not form a part of the integral state policy."
In light of this diagnosis, AI demands that the government of President Álvaro Uribe guarantee that all members of the security forces implicated in human rights violations, alone or in complicity with paramilitary fighters, be suspended until their level of responsibility is determined.
In response, the Colombian government acknowledged the need to take urgent measures to keep women from continuing to be the main victims of armed groups active in the country.
Despite the tensions between the Colombian government and human rights groups, Vice President Francisco Santos praised the AI report saying it contains any positive elements on which to take action.
In addition, he promised AI representatives that the government would revise the specific cases denounced in the report implicating members of the armed forces and police.
Neil Jeffery and Tara Carr, "Impact of Conflict on Women," U.S. Office on Colombia, Feb. 2004.
An epidemic of violence confronts women in Colombia. The U.S. State Department, UNHCHR, CODHES, and the Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) all note that internally displaced women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and domestic violence. The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women highlights six forms of physical violence against Colombian women, including rape, forced contraception and sterilization, forced prostitution, sexual slavery and domestic abuse. According to several delegations of international NGOs, violence against women is worsening as the war accelerates.
Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war by illegal armed actors that fight for power and control through attacks on civilians suspected of supporting the enemy. Paramilitary and guerrilla forces utilize sex to threaten women leaders and human rights defenders and to exert social pressure on the territories they seek to control. Furthermore, they often attack female relatives and partners of the enemy forces and women who have protected young people from recruitment. Violence against civilian women by armed groups has become a common tactic in the conflict.
If a woman or girl is killed in violence by armed actors, sexual abuse, mutilation and rape are not investigated or listed in the death report. Consequently, the extent of sexual violence in conflict is largely unknown. Eyewitness testimony, however, suggests that rape is widespread in conflict zones. Women survivors frequently hide the violence done to them out of fear of reprisal or social shame, frustrating the ability to document and attend to their pain.
Forced sex, sexual slavery and prostitution are also utilized by paramilitary and guerrilla forces on members of their units, whose ranks are increasingly filled with forcibly recruited women and girls. Human Rights Watch estimates that from one-quarter to one-half of guerrilla combatants are women or girls as young as eight years old. Male commanders choose under-age sexual partners and force girls to form intimate relationships. Girls discarded by the commanders find themselves in precarious situations threatening their survival. Guerrilla and paramilitary forces have abducted girls and women for use as sexual slaves in the camps and as prostitutes among their members.
According to the testimony of former combatants to the Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, female combatants are forced to undergo abortions and/or use birth control involuntarily. The guerrillas require women and girls to use contraception, frequently directing nurses to insert intrauterine devices. Former combatant testimony indicates that the FARC mandates abortion if a woman becomes pregnant, even if the mother would prefer to keep her baby.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Chris McGreal, “Hundreds of thousands raped in Congo wars,” Guardian, 14 Nov. 2006.
Hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped over the past decade by soldiers, rebels and ethnic militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The scale of the assaults has become increasingly evident over recent months as growing numbers of women have emerged for treatment with the reduction in fighting ahead of presidential elections, and because medical workers have been able to reach areas in the east of the country long cut off by conflict.
The survivors have given accounts of villages subjected to repeated assaults in which many women and girls were serially raped and men killed.
Although there are no comprehensive statistics, in one province alone, South Kivu, about 42,000 women were treated in health clinics for serious sexual assaults last year, according to statistics collected by the human rights group, Global Rights.
While rape has been a product of many conflicts, its scale and systematic nature in eastern Congo has led some human rights groups to describe it as a "weapon of war" used to punish communities for their political loyalties or as a form of ethnic cleansing. On occasions men and boys have also been raped.
Doctors and women's groups working with the victims say the attacks are notable not only for their scale but also their brutality.
Among those receiving treatment in the relative safety of the town of Goma in eastern Congo is a woman from Kindu who was repeatedly raped in May 2005 but was only able to reach a hospital for treatment earlier this year.
The 54-year-old woman, bent double over a stick after surgery to save her womb, said her village first came under attack from a group of Mai Mai, an ethnic militia recognisable by a preference for wearing animal skins and amulets believed to give magical powers.
"There were Mai Mai in the area. They came in the morning and raped me, two of them. That didn't disturb me so much after what happened later," she said. "In the afternoon five men came into the house. They told my husband to put three kinds of money on the table: dollars, shillings, francs. But we didn't have any of that kind of money. We are poor. We don't even know what dollars look like. So they shot him. My children were screaming and so they shot them. After that they raped me, all of them."
As she lay bleeding the attackers thrust the barrels of their guns into her vagina.
The woman identified the second group of armed men as members of the interahamwe, the extremist Hutu militia that fled into Congo 12 years ago after leading the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda. The interahamwe used rape as a tool of genocide, telling women that they would bear Hutu children and that would be the end of the Tutsis. Thousands still hide out in the forests of eastern Congo.
The Doctors On Call Service (DOCS) hospital in Goma has seen close to 4,000 women for rape over the past four years. One in four required major surgery. More than a third are under 18. "They really come with very bad wounds," said Justin Paluku, a doctor. "For example some have their vaginas pulled out. Most of them have been raped by four, five or six or even 10 men. A village will be attacked and all the women are raped. They kill the men and rape the women."
Immaculee Birhaheka, head of a women's rights group in Goma, Paif, said those women who make it to hospital are just a fraction of those attacked. "It's impossible to know how many women have been raped in the war but it is hundreds of thousands," she said.
Some human rights groups are calling for the leaders of groups responsible for the tide of rape to be brought before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
One militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots, went on trial before the the ICC last week for the forced recruitment of child soldiers, although his troops were also involved in the systematic rape of civilians.
Mrs Birhaheka says the Congolese authorities must act where the international court does not. Her women's rights group was at the forefront of a campaign that persuaded the DRC parliament to pass a new tougher law on rape earlier this year.
"There have already been 10 prosecutions in Goma under the new law, some were soldiers and some civilians," she said. "Before it was the women who were regarded as the criminals and condemned. That's changing. Now at least there is a recognition that rape is a crime."
Among the thousands of women attacked was a 23-year-old from Walikali who travelled more than 90 miles (150km) to hospital in Goma, where she had surgery after being assaulted by members of the Rwandan Hutu militia, the interahamwe.
"Where I lived they were in the forest ... we had to go there to find food. There were four of us and we were stopped by seven interahamwe," she said.
Two of us tried to run away. One was shot dead. The other got a bullet in the leg. They still raped her. I fainted because there were seven of them.
"I really got damaged. I couldn't hold in my urine. I heard those people came back and killed my father."
DRC: Children at war, creating hope for the future. Amnesty International, 11 Oct. 2006.
III. CHILDREN ASSOCIATED WITH THE ARMED FORCES AND GROUPS
In September 2003 an Amnesty International report, DRC: Children at war (AI Index: AFR 62/034/2003), expressed concern at the plight of the tens of thousands of children associated with the armed forces and groups.(44) The report drew attention to the scale of the recruitment and use of children, and to the systematic abuse of these children through torture, sexual violence and ill-treatment. The report urged the DRC government and international community to take concrete and urgent steps to protect children from recruitment, to ensure the release of the children from the armed forces or groups, and to promote their durable reintegration into civilian life.
The DRC government estimates that at least 30,000 children(45) are associated with armed forces or groups, while the World Bank in 2004 estimated that "child soldiers represented at least 20 per cent of the fighting forces in the DRC"(46). Children are associated with armed groups and armed forces sometimes from the age of six years’ old and can have spent up to 10 years in these forces. Because of the large proportion of children serving with the armed groups, many older children quickly rise through the ranks to become non-commissioned or even junior officers. They usually suffer violent treatment during their training and are often sent into combat. They are also used to carry the supplies, water, food and ammunition or to serve as cooks or domestic servants. Girls and some boys are used as sex slaves by the commanders or adult fighters. Some children have been instructed to kill their own families, and children are often given drugs and alcohol.
Jacques, 15 years old, was recruited into a mayi-mayi group near his home in Uvira, South-Kivu province, when he was 10 years old."I remember the day I decided to join the mayi-mayi. It was after an attack on my village. My parents, and also my grand-father were killed and I was running. I was so scared. I lost everyone; I had nowhere to go and no food to eat. In the mayi-mayi I thought I would be protected, but it was hard. I would see others die in front of me. I was hungry very often, and I was scared. Sometimes they would whip me, sometimes very hard. They used to say that it would make me a better fighter. One day, they whipped my [11-year-old] friend to death because he had not killed the enemy. Also, what I did not like is to hear the girls, our friends, crying because the soldiers would rape them. "
Children are singled out for recruitment by armed forces and group commanders because they are easily manipulated and often unaware of the dangers they face. Some children are forcibly recruited, while others enrol themselves, primarily in a search for food, protection, clothes and money and a desire to escape extreme poverty. Other reasons for enrolment typically include peer or parental pressure, a wish to serve their community or ethnic group, or to avenge abuses committed against their families or community.
In North-Kivu, anti-government forces loyal to dissident commander Laurent Nkunda have been recruiting children, often by force, in the Masisi and Rutshuru territories of North-Kivu since at least late 2005. Nkunda’s forces have been responsible for a string of human rights abuses, some amounting to war crimes, including during his last major offensive against government forces in North-Kivu in January 2006, when his forces attacked FARDC [Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo] (positions in Rutshuru territory and subsequently committed scores of apparently ethnically-motivated rapes of women and girls(73).
“Tens of thousands raped by militants in eastern Congo, rights group says,” Canadian Press, 7 March 2005.
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) - Militiamen and renegade soldiers have raped and beaten tens of thousands of women and young girls in eastern Congo, and nearly all the crimes have gone unpunished by the country's broken judicial system, an international human rights group said Monday.
Hundreds of new rapes are reported every week, but only 10 soldiers and militants have been convicted of rape in relatively lawless eastern Congo since the end of the country's devastating war in 2002, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report.
"Perpetrators of sexual violence are members of virtually all the armed forces and armed groups that operate in eastern Congo," according to the 52-page report.
"The Congolese justice system has to date failed to address the egregious problem."
Rape is common among armed groups fighting the east's myriad battles, as it was during the 1998-2002 war. Monday's report quotes a World Health Organization study that documented more than 40,000 rapes in two eastern provinces during the conflict.
Marauding gunmen gang-raped children as young as three, and often raped women and young girls - some to the point of death - in front of their families, the report said.
At least 10 women were raped every day in the tiny embattled town of Bunia as recently as October 2004, according to the report.
Warring ethnic Hema and Lendu militia continue to terrorize Bunia - kicking down doors in the night and snatching girls in the fields - despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers based there.
Peacekeepers in Bunia have also been accused of raping young girls living in the town's sprawling camp for those displaced by fighting, or trading sweets and pocket change for sex.
The United Nations reported Saturday that Lendu militia in the northern Ituri province had kidnapped thousands of people and used many of them as sex slaves.
In some cases, even boys and men were being raped by armed groups.
In all, the report states that "tens of thousands" of rapes had been reported, and many more are believed to have gone unreported.
Despite the creation of a transitional government in 2003 that ended Congo's five-year war, the law has yet to reach the troubled east.
Outdated rape laws, lack of police and criminal courts, and widespread failure to see rape as a crime make it impossible for the few prosecutors to pursue rapists, said Juliane Kippenberg, researcher and spokeswomen for Human Rights Watch.
She said many young girls are too afraid or embarrassed to report rape to their parents, or to military authorities in the region. Many die from lack of medical attention after being raped, and some commit suicide rather than seek help.
"Violence against women," Amnesty International Report 2005.
In the course of the DRC conflict, tens of thousands of women and girls have been victims of systematic rape committed by combatant forces. Throughout 2004 women and girls continued to be attacked in their homes, in the fields or as they went about their daily activities. Many suffered gang rapes or were taken as sex slaves by combatants. Rape of men and boys was also reported. Rape was often preceded or followed by the deliberate wounding, torture or killing of the victim. Some rapes were committed publicly or in front of family members, including children. Some MONUC civilian, police and military personnel were responsible for rape and sexual exploitation of women and girls.
Rape survivors’ rights were further violated in the aftermath of the rape, deepening their suffering. Women suffering injuries or illnesses caused by the rape – some of them life-threatening – were denied medical care. The DRC’s health care system, completely broken down in many areas, was unable to offer even the most basic treatment. Because of prejudice, many women were abandoned by their husbands and excluded by their communities, condemning them and their children to extreme poverty. Because of an incapacitated judicial system, there was no justice or redress for the crimes they endured.In March AI delegates visited Odette, a girl of six, in hospital in the city of Kindu, Maniema province. She had been raped several weeks before by a mayi-mayi combatant as she played in front of her home. The man dragged her into the grounds of the local school where he raped her. The attack left her with extensive wounds to her vagina.
In early 2004 Lotsove, aged 12, was raped by combatants as she sought shelter from fighting between two armed groups for control of the gold mining area of Mongbwalu, Ituri district. During the attack, she lost track of six of her friends and her two sisters who had been with her. She found her sisters, Lolo and Vita, 13 and 14, three days later in a nearby village. Both had also been raped. Despite having pain in her lower abdomen, Lotsove was never seen by a doctor.
“Congo-Kinshasa; Double Agony for Women Refugees,” Africa News, 22 June 2001.
Congolese mothers put it aptly: "War and civil strife are caused by greedy male leaders who cultivate hatred and reap death". Stories of women and girl refugees can move even the most callous to tears. From Kenya to Uganda, Tanzania to Congo, Somalia to Rwanda, Burundi to Angola, women are forever targeted for sexual violence, rape and other forms of brutality.
Theirs is a story of constant domestic violence and betrayal. Having fled their war torn countries into refuge, their husbands abandon them with heavy responsibilities, hungry and frightened children.
The Jesuit Refugee Service says: "Mothers of an estimated 300,000 child soldiers have the devastating experience of seeing their children taken away to carry out unspeakable atrocities." (“Congo-Kinshasa; Double Agony for Women Refugees,” Africa News, 22 June 2001.)
Confined to crowded camps, they are attacked each time they venture out to fetch water or firewood. Fellow refugees, local men or the police normally perpetrate the attacks. (“Congo-Kinshasa; Double Agony for Women Refugees,” Africa News, 22 June 2001.)
In Dadaab, one of North Eastern's refugee camps, 85 per cent of all reported rapes occur between 9am and 1pm. The masked rapists often attack victims during food distribution exercises.
The assailants often address their victims in Somali, seeking their identity by clan. The refugee camps of Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera have introduced irregular "mobile courts" to redress such attacks.
"In the year 2000, only three perpetrators of sexual violence were punished. Rape survivors are scared of testifying at this court for fear of retaliation. Many therefore opt for "maslaha", a kangaroo court where they get compensated after discussion and agreement between families and the offenders," says the Refugee Consortium in its April 2001 newsletter. (“Congo-Kinshasa; Double Agony for Women Refugees,” Africa News, 22 June 2001.)
Maureen Lynch and Dawn Calabia, “Cote d’Ivoire: Continuing IDP Crisis complicated by National Policies and Voting Issues,” Refugees International, 01/31/2007.
Cote d’Ivoire was once considered the showplace of West Africa. Since 2002, however, the country has been wracked by internal conflict over national identity, voting rights, and land tenure, which has divided the land of nearly 18 million people in two. The government of President Gbagbo controls the prosperous south and west while the opposing Force Nouvelle controls the physically larger but poorer north. It is widely believed that the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), largely funded by the European Union to date, have prevented humanitarian emergencies in the north and south. Displacement, continued violation of human rights, and an undetermined level of humanitarian need plague the nation.
The civil war produced large scale displacement: the exodus of some 400,000 migrants to their neighboring homelands; the flight of some 15,000 Ivorian refugees to neighboring states; the movement of an estimated 500,000 to the south. A still unknown number has been displaced in the north. The flight of civil servants from the north left that 60 percent of the country without administrators, police, teachers, water and sanitation services, health care workers and road maintenance. Diseases that were under control are flourishing again. The World Health Organization is concerned that a recent outbreak of yellow fever, an increase in water borne diseases due to deteriorating water systems and sanitation, as well as the impact of recurrent malaria and increasing HIV/AIDs, could further threaten public health.
Fundamental rights are violated on a daily basis. One NGO worker told Refugees International, “There are still killings, disappearances, and death threats.” Numerous security and identity checkpoints subject the population not only to physical risks but also to lost income and work opportunities. Detained individuals experience endless delays, constant harassment, and extortion from armed elements on both sides, who frequently confiscate or destroy papers, seize goods, arrest travelers, or physically abuse and even rape vulnerable travelers. A person might be pressed to give between $1-10 (of a $30 monthly income) to regain freedom of movement. Human rights workers told RI, “Checkpoints are places where women are set aside and sexually assaulted. The bus leaves and they are alone. This is a hidden problem, but is increasing.”
"Violence Against Women in the Pacific," Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, 24 Aug. 2005.
Political and ethnic conflicts such as the  coup in Fiji and the ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands disrupt all aspects of social and economic life. Civil society organisations such as FWCC, other women’s organisations and NGOs have to work much harder to highlight human rights issues and abuses in a context where there is increased acceptance of violence at many levels and many instances of institutionalised racism. Issues concerning women and children become secondary to issues of national security. Police and the judiciary give a low priority to prosecuting cases of violence against women and children. Women’s organisations may be accused of selfishness for continuing to pursue a women’s rights agenda. ... There is evidence from Bougainville, the Highlands of PNG, Solomon Islands and Fiji that sexual violence against women is used as a weapon of terrorism and war in ethnic and armed conflict. In addition, FWCC’s research on the impact of the May 2000 coup in Fiji showed an increase in physical and verbal domestic abuse due to financial stress and a general disrespect for the law following the coup, in addition to other social and economic impacts and increased assaults by Police and Military.
Amnesty International, India: Justice, the victim – Gujarat state fails to protect women from violence. 2005.
In February 2002, violence erupted in the state of Gujarat in western India. Some 2000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and many others were injured and forcibly evicted from their homes and businesses over the course of the following weeks. Violence against women and girls was a key feature of the violence. Scores of Muslim women and girls were sexually violated - raped, gang-raped or mutilated. Many saw their family members killed and their homes and businesses destroyed. After these traumatizing events many women victims were left to care for their family’s survival, often in makeshift relief camps with inadequate support, conditions and reparations. Few perpetrators were convicted and victims’ attempts to obtain legal redress have been largely frustrated.
The Indian state of Gujarat has a history of communal violence whereby violence was perpetrated by both Hindus and Muslims.(1) While the violence in 2002 followed a fire in a train which killed 59 Hindus, it cannot be likened to earlier patterns of communal violence. The violence that ensued in the period from late February to May 2002 almost exclusively involved Muslims suffering from targeted violence perpetrated by organized right wing Hindu mobs.(2) The violence was grounded in the widespread ideology of Hindutva which sees India as a nation of Hindus. (For details of this ideology see section 4 and 6.)
… This report demonstrates a range of failures of the state to fulfil the standard of due diligence under national and international obligation to prevent grave human rights abuses perpetrated against women, protect victims and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Failures are identified at all levels: the police, trial court, high court, the state government and central government.
• Police in Gujarat failed to fulfil their constitutional obligation to prevent violence and protect victims. In many cases, police reportedly participated and connived in the violence. They thwarted victims’ legal redress by failing to accurately register and investigate victims’ complaints.
• Trial courts in Gujarat failed to ensure justice for victims in a variety of ways, including by their mechanical approach to evidence, failure to use available remedial procedures and failure to ensure a peaceful atmosphere in the court.
• The Gujarat High Court failed to ensure justice for victims, inter alia by failing to use its powers to question the trial courts’ passive role in their quest for justice.
• Gujarat government authorities and trial courts failed to provide medical relief and secure medico-legal evidence of victims who had been sexually abused.
• Justice for women victims has also been frustrated because existing laws relating to rape and sexual assault are inadequate.
• The Government of Gujarat not only failed to prevent crimes and ensure that those responsible were brought to justice but it also failed to curb hate speech and inflammatory media and maintain strict neutrality with regard to the violence. The state government also showed reluctance to cooperate with the judiciary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and resisted public scrutiny.
• The Government of Gujarat failed to provide full - or in most instances, any, - reparations to victims and their families, including restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.(3)
• The Government of India failed to ensure that there was effective legislation in place defining adequately all of the abuses (in particular those of sexual violence) and including those amounting to crimes under international law, as crimes under Indian law, providing effective access to courts for victims and their families and requiring those responsible to provide reparations.
There is also evidence to suggest that the State of Gujarat acquiesced in the violence. Meanwhile, the central government of the time, despite having constitutional powers and international obligations to do so, failed to intervene while deliberate and massive violations to human rights were occurring. Since the violence, the Supreme Court of India and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have been harshly critical of Gujarat state institutions for their inadequate protection of human rights.
2. Violence against women in Gujarat
Situations of large scale violence, whether grounded in enmity based on religion, race, language or ethnic identity, are not only about men fighting each other. They are not gender-neutral exercises in destruction. In fact, throughout the duration of such violence and thereafter, women suffer in very specific ways determined by their gender. Common to almost all experiences of such violence is the intersection of gender and other identity markers, such as ethnicity, race or religion. Violence against women in such situations is predicated on the sexualization of women and their role as transmitters of culture and symbols of a particular community: women experience situations of large scale violence as sexual objects and as female members of ethnic, racial, religious or national groups. Such situations do not create gender-based discrimination but reflect a pre-existing attitude towards women.
In none of the earlier incidents of communal violence in Gujarat or other parts of the country had sexual violence against girls and women, committed in public, been such a key feature.(4)
Muslim girls and women in Gujarat suffered abuses similar to Muslim men during the violence experienced by members of the Muslim minority in 2002.(5) These acts included physical assaults, injuries, extrajudicial killings and forced eviction from or destruction of their homes and businesses. Women were also subjected to deliberate “"gendered”" forms of violence and persecution, such as rape and other forms of sexual violence. They became victims of grave abuses because their identities as both women and Muslims intersected. For right-wing Hindus attacking the Muslim minority, Muslim women became the hated symbols of the community which they sought to threaten, humiliate, hurt and destroy.
n most cases, these acts were crimes under the laws of the State of Gujarat and India, but, as explained in this paper, these laws were inadequate. In addition, Amnesty International has information that suggests the violence was committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian Muslim men, women and children pursuant to a state or organizational policy to commit this attack and as such these acts are considered under international law to be crimes against humanity.(6)
During and after the protracted violence, women in Gujarat were also deeply affected in their traditional roles as carers and nurturers of their families. They had to bear sudden and unusual responsibility for families torn apart by the large scale violence and deprived of food and shelter, responsibilities which were normally borne by male relatives. Women who were themselves deeply traumatized by what they had experienced, including the murders of family members, rape, violent destruction of their home and possessions and by persistent fear of further attacks, had to take care of equally traumatized relatives, including children, whose lives were shattered.
The consequences of having experienced these violations will remain for many years and, for a significant number of women, for the rest of their lives. These consequences may be medical problems or psychological disorders with little assistance or hope for rehabilitation and, in many cases, loss of livelihood.
Important factors in coming to terms with loss and grave crimes, both experienced and witnessed, are the establishment of the truth of the violations, bringing to justice the perpetrators and providing full reparations to victims and their families. The Governments of Gujarat and India are obliged under international law to prevent crimes against humanity and to investigate them, and where there is sufficient admissible evidence, to prosecute those suspected of these crimes.
The gender of the women, on account of which they were attacked, has also hampered their chances of obtaining justice, truth and reparations. The shame surrounding crimes of sexual violence, the victims’ communities’ need for reconciliation and fear of the police have deterred many women from reporting the crimes they suffered. Women in Gujarat who have reported these crimes have consistently been denied justice, truth and reparations: the criminal justice system has at all levels failed them and the Government of Gujarat has actively prevented it wherever possible. Impunity for violence against women is part of the systemic discrimination that women suffered before, during and after widespread violence.
Letting the perpetrators of such serious crimes get away with them sends the message to other Muslims that the state does not take their protection seriously and sends the message to Muslim women that the state is indifferent to their plight. Muslim women, almost three years after the large scale violence in Gujarat, continue to fear for their lives.
Amnesty International believes that impunity for crimes, including crimes of sexual violence, inflicted upon Muslim women and girls of Gujarat must end. They have a right to justice, to truth and to full reparations.
”Gang Rape Victim Eyes Justice For Gujarat Women After Ruling,” Agenbce France Presse, 8 Aug. 2004.
August 9, 2004 - (AFP) A Muslim woman allegedly gang-raped during 2002 religious riots in the Indian state of Gujarat voiced hope that thousands of fellow victims would finally see justice after her case was shifted to another location to ensure a fair trial.
Bilkis Bano Yakub Rasool, who says she watched 14 of her family members including her three-year-old daughter killed, claimed victory after a decision by India's Supreme Court to move her case to the neighbouring state of Maharashtra.
Rasool has publicly come forward as the only adult witness to a massacre on March 3, 2002, in Randhikpur village. She said a Hindu mob gang raped her and killed 14 of her relatives, including two women who were raped, as they tried to escape.
Police did not press charges until Rasool went public and approached India's National Human Rights Commission. Twenty suspects now face trial.
Rasool said she was scared of intimidation if the trial took place in Gujarat, whose ruling Hindu nationalists were accused of abetting the riots in which some 2,000 people died.
"The transfer of my case outside Gujarat has restored my faith in the national legal justice system. I had lost that faith two years ago when my neighbours turned their backs on me," Rasool told a news conference Sunday in Gujarat's commercial capital Ahmedabad.
"I am not just fighting this case for myself, but also for other Muslim women on whom sexual violence was perpetrated and used as a weapon," said Rasool, whose was accompanied by her one-year-old daughter and husband.
"I know I am not the only one. There are many women out there whose names and faces I do not know but whose pain I can feel," said Rasool, who lifted her veil while speaking.
Human rights groups say thousands of women were raped during the Gujarat riots, which broke out after an allegedly Muslim mob torched a train carrying Hindu activists, killing 59 people.
India's new left-leaning government, which defeated allies of the Gujarat government in a May election upset, has pledged a more vigorous prosecution of Gujarat riot cases.
In April, the Supreme Court ordered the retrial in Maharashtra of 21 Hindus acquitted of killing 12 Muslims in an arson attack during the Gujarat riots after witness Zaheera Sheikh said she was forced to retract testimony due to threats by Hindu hardliners.
Cindy Shiner, "Indonesian Christians assess attacks," Washington Post, 24 Nov. 1998.
Ethnic Chinese are often targeted in Indonesia, the world's most-populous Muslim country, during times of political and economic turmoil. A small fraction of the ethnic Chinese community controls much of the country's commercial wealth while the majority runs small businesses and has suffered the same fallout from a devastating economic crisis as indigenous Indonesians.
Keith B. Richburg, "Ethnic Chinese: Indonesia's Scapegoats," Washington Post, 23 Dec. 1998.
In this year of shattered lives and economic upheaval in Asia, Indonesia's Chinese have suffered a singular tragedy. As Indonesia's currency and then its economy have collapsed, the shopkeepers and small traders that make up the heart of the Chinese community have seen their businesses crushed by economic pressures. But even worse, thousands have seen their stores and homes looted and burned by Indonesian rioters.
The rioting in May, and a smaller outburst six months later, have left the community in a state of siege. Dozens have been killed by mobs, and scores of women have been raped. Families have split as thousands have fled for safety abroad. Those who remain are uncertain about their future in a country where most were born, and where most have no choice but to remain.
Theirs is the classic fear of an ethnic minority singled out in a time of economic trouble for blame and retribution. ...
In perhaps its most chilling conclusion, the investigating panel substantiated what already was known widely here but what some government officials had tried to deny: that during the riots, 66 women and girls, almost all of them ethnic Chinese, were raped in Jakarta and other cities. "It has yet to be ascertained whether the sexual violence that occurred was premeditated, or mere excesses of the rioting," the report said. [The government later admitted that women, most of them ethnic Chinese, were gang-raped during the riots, but said the number was fewer than 66.]
For many Indonesian Chinese, there is little uncertainty about the rapes: They were premeditated and systematic. The proof can be found in the lingering symbols -- a circle, a cross or an arrow drawn with red paint.
Eva, who is 24, didn't notice it at first. A friend pointed it out on her door, days after the rioting had subsided. But when she looked, it was indeed there, and unmistakable -- a small circle, painted in red.
It was a sign, she learned later, left for potential attackers. It meant that a Chinese family lived in the house and that a girl was there who should be raped.
"I felt I had almost been raped," said Eva, who quickly scraped the painted markings from her door. "I was so scared. At night, I can't sleep because I'm still thinking about that."
On the green metal gate of Tan Ay Mei's house, next door to the furniture store she runs, the symbols are even more explicit. There are two stick figures painted in red, one atop the other, and a large red arrow with a clear sexual connotation. Next to the crudely painted symbol is a single number, 13, which she believes stands for May 13, the day Jakarta exploded in violence and the looting began. She didn't need to see the symbol on her gate to know that she had to flee.
David Watts, "Jakarta acts to halt terror by military elite," The Times, 15 July 1998.
"Let's butcher the Chinese; let's eat pigs; let's have a party," the attackers chanted as they raided a Jakarta apartment building, according to an e-mail account by an 18-year-old victim writing under the pseudonym of Vivian.
About 60 attackers entered the building. Her sister Veny was caught first. "There were about five people who raped Veny, and before beginning everyone always said, ' Allahu akbar (God is greatest).' They were ferocious, brutal.
"Not long afterwards, nine men came and dragged me. When she was raped, Veny kept fighting and so she was slapped repeatedly by her attackers. The last time she fought she spat on one of them. Offended, the man grabbed a knife and stabbed Veny's stomach. Brutally he did it repeatedly until Veny drew her last breath with blood all over her."
Michelle Landsberg, "Indonesian rape victims wait for justice," Toronto Star, 6 Sept. 1998.
The Indonesian military may well have learned a new and evil lesson from Bosnia or Rwanda: One way to devastate your enemy is to degrade, rape and destroy the enemy's women.
In all the historic waves of Indonesian riots and violence against the ethnic Chinese - who are a tiny but economically powerful minority in Indonesia - there have never before been reports of gang rape.
Last spring, as the Indonesian economy crashed, non-government groups began to document a sickening reality - at least 180 verified, brutal rapes of Chinese women and girls. The evidence mounts daily that these assaults in and around Jakarta last May, which occurred during anti-Chinese rioting, were planned and orchestrated, possibly by members of the military. (More than 1,000 people were killed; thousands of shops and houses were looted and torched).
Now let the Indonesian rapists learn a new lesson: just three days ago, a Rwandan war leader accused of mass murder, torture and rape was found guilty of genocide at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In an historic first, the judge ruled that ''acts of sexual violence constitute genocide.''
Some day, the men who recruited and incited the Jakarta assailants may also stand trial, in the eyes of the world and in the dock of international justice, for what they have done to the Chinese women.
The first accounts that leaked out to the world on the Internet were jolting - all the more horrific because of their broken English and agonized blurting of detail. These accounts told of young women and little girls gang-raped in front of their screaming parents, women stripped and degraded in the public streets, raped and mutilated women thrown into the flames of burning Chinese shops. They were targeted not for any wrong they had done, but merely for the accident of their being born into a certain ethnicity.
As gangs stormed into apartment buildings and ransacked the living quarters above shops, they singled out the ethnic Chinese women and even girls as young as 10 for ''acts of brutal torture,'' according to the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights. A little girl coming home from school found the family home in flames - and was promptly seized and raped in front of her neighbours. Ten Chinese women who took refuge in a bank during the riots were stripped and made to dance naked. Ita Nadia, a social worker at a women's crisis centre, has told the press of victims who have since committed suicide, and of many others who were threatened with death if they dared report the crimes to police.
Following Indonesia's staggering descent into chaos - from Asian tiger to globalization road kill - nearly half the population of 200 million is poor to the point of desperation. In the face of a likely rebellion, public anger was swiftly focused on the Chinese minority by hate propaganda, including racist flyers which mysteriously appeared immediately before the riots.
Emerging evidence points to the possible guilty role of General Prabowo Subianto, the ferocious son-in-law of the former dictator Suharto, who was forced out of office after the riots last May. Prabowo has recently admitted to ordering the ''disappearance'' of more than two dozen murdered political dissidents, and was dismissed from his job just last week. Suspicion about his role in the organized riots and gang rapes circles persistently around him like flies around carrion.
Suharto's successor in office, President B. J. Habibie, reacted all spring and summer to reports of the rapes with denials, hedging, indignation, victim-blaming and excuses. Leading conservative Muslims in his government insisted that the whole story was an ''anti-Islamic smear.'' But in fact, a prominent Muslim opposition leader, Amien Rais, is among those who have helped document the rapes, and the country's largest Muslim organization is working closely with the Christian human rights activists and women's grassroots groups that are alerting the world to the crimes.
In the last few weeks, President Habibie has finally apologized for the rapes and sworn to call the perpetrators to account. We can assume that his long-delayed avowal of ''deep concern and sensitivity'' is in truth a sensitivity to international pressures. That's why it would be tragic if the media-saturated western world grew jaded about these acts of war against women. . . The rapes should sear our consciousness with a burning awareness of how closely meshed are the twin bigotries of sexism and racism - hatreds that go hand in hand.
Raymond A. Schroth, "From chaos to crisis in lush Indonesia," National Catholic Reporter, 28 Aug. 1998.
"Who was the `Mister Big' responsible for the burnings and rapes?" I asked. Most of the speculation centers on Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, at the time commander of the Army Strategic Reserves, Suharto's son-in-law, who, the theory goes, used a mini-army of paramilitary gangsters to foment a crisis that would thrust him into power.
Samsudin Berlian, "Indonesia: Ethnic Chinese live dangerously," Inter Press Service, 3 Aug. 1998.
Habibie blamed the May violence on wide economic disparities and indicated he did not think it was politically motivated. But documented reports by human rights activist Father Sandyawan argued that the May riots were not spontaneous, but well-planned and executed by a highly-organized group. Human rights activists have told stories of the rapes of nearly 200 Chinese women, including the gang rape of little girls in front of families, of young women in buses and on the streets, of those being thrown into burning buildings afterwards, and of those who later needed psychiatric treatment.
Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem), said recently that the rapes were part of an organized reaction to a crisis and that the culprits must be brought to trial.
"This is totally unacceptable, disturbing and even more upsetting than war crime rapes, as Indonesia was not in a war with another country but caught in its own internal crisis," she said.
Systematic rape as a weapon in conflict has been classified a crime against humanity, and a United Nations tribunal in 1996 rules that the rapes of Muslim women in Bosnia were war crimes.
Sandyawan's report, whose findings are similar to those by Indonesia's Commission on Human Rights, argues that there were too many similarities among the anti-Chinese attacks to have been a spontaneous burst of anarchy: the timing, the kinds of stores that were burned and looted, methods of how the riots, looting, killing, and burning were carried out.
"How could this be 'accidental'?" the report asked. The whole thing was the "result of a patterned, systematic, and organized operation".
"That de facto many Chinese suffered that barbaric treatment is a brutal discrimination often used in the New Order political game. And as so many times before, Chinese were forced again to be the victims of an elite political game," the report said. "There are enough indications that an elite authority is responsible."
"Young rape victims' counsellor found murdered in Indonesia," Agence France Presse, 10 Oct. 1998.
Armed forces chief General Wiranto (Eds: one name) said last week that the government and military had failed to find evidence of rapes during the riots, despite a lengthy inquiry. … He made the statement despite strong criticism here and abroad of a similar statement by him last month.
Mary Riddell, “Where death is the penalty for going bare-headed,” Guardian, 29 Oct. 2006.
If our leaders are intent on finding peace in Iraq, they could begin by upholding women's basic human rights
Black is never out of fashion in Iraq. Some women, the bereaved, have not cast off their mourning robes since 2003. Others, Christians included, wear Muslim dress as camouflage to preserve their lives. Driving a car or walking bare-headed is a come-on to executioners in a country where last year's Western fashions have become this season's shroud.
These are hideous times for women targeted by Shiite and Sunni militias. As my colleague Peter Beaumont reported earlier this month, murder rates are rising for those in the wrong sect, the wrong job or simply the wrong place. In the new Iraq, there is only one way to live, in fear and enforced submission, but death comes in many forms. If the revenge killers, armed robbers and rape gangs do not get you, then suicide bombers might.
It would be false, in any war, to cast women as victims. The prosecutors, the combatants and torturers of this conflict all have a female element. Women have no monopoly on peace, democracy, human rights or broken hearts. But there are many dangers, beyond personal fates, in allowing the women, and all other civilians, of Iraq and Afghanistan to become the shadowy Greek chorus of their wars.
With the American midterm elections imminent, the rhetoric is heavy with machismo. Generals rattle sabres, as Bush and Blair reinforce the creed of toughness. If Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi leader, cannot show some neo-Saddamite backbone, then Bush may yet favour someone more dictatorial. Statisticians dissect the Lancet's estimate of 650,000 dead, while no one notices that back gardens and football fields are being dug for overspill graveyards. Even by its own brutal standards, war has become dehumanised, yet oddly sanitised too. Technology lets onlookers see everything, but shame or failure have neutralised the scent of blood and blurred the images of torment.
Once the war on terror was sold as a feminist crusade. Bush claimed to fight 'for the rights and dignity of women' and Cherie Blair talked about helping Afghan women to 'free their spirit'. Such words sound hollow now, after a week in which Nato bombers killed at least 12 civilians in an area previously declared Taliban-free by the alliance. In a climate of reborn repression, an Afghan headmaster was beheaded not long ago, in front of his wife and eight children, for daring to educate girls.
In Iraq, the Western coalition has presided over a catastrophe in which the emancipated women of a once-secular state suffer more repression than their grandmothers. It is ironic, at the least, that female British cabinet ministers queue up to denounce the veil while never apologising for mandating a war propelling women back to the Dark Ages. Iraq is now a country where a woman's face may be classified by rapists and murderers as what Australia's leading Muslim cleric calls 'uncovered meat'. The great veil debate, a staple of the British radio talk show, is being played out for real in Baghdad's morgues.
Hence the silent exodus. An Iraqi women told me yesterday that her friends are desperate to marry foreigners, however old, ill-educated or unknown. 'Marriage to a stranger is an escape route,' she said. 'Their only concern is to get out of Iraq.'
This week, like every other, 10,000 people will cross the Syrian border. Since the war began, 3,500 women may have been trafficked into prostitution and Unicef says Iraqi girls as young as 12 are working in the brothels of Damascus for a few dollars a day.
These are the women and children who were going to throw flowers at their liberators. In the absence of WMD, they were the casus belli on whose thin shoulders rested the edifice of war. And now, in the disaster of the invasion, they are all but invisible. Bush and Blair made these citizens the bearers of their spurious dreams. With military scores to settle and congressional elections to fight, there is no time to linger on a refugee crisis or an imploded society. The political bind is grim enough without shining any spotlights on the messy human detritus of war.
But already the backlash has started. As ever, it is being run in the name of women. Terrorised by militias and sold short by the new constitution, they are the greatest losers of a nascent theocracy. They were, the latest argument goes, better off under Saddam. Though that is true, in many cases, it is not helpful to hark back to an era when no one had rights. You can argue, as I always have, that the Iraq war was an illegal fiasco, but any idea that Saddam presided over an age of enlightenment, however relative, merely feeds an argument smothered in superannuated blame.
Much as it may soothe Western consciences, there is little practical point in arguing that Blair should have been ousted long ago or musing on how much better things could have been if only Donald Rumsfeld, the black architect of postwar planning, had fallen under a tank. Navel-gazing distracts from the real issue, which is what can be done to help Iraqis. The easy answer is: nothing. The military is never there for the families who wake to find the mahdi army's calling card of a Kalashnikov bullet and a note that reads: 'Leave your area now.' It is understandable that 51 per cent of British women, watching the slaughter of civilians and the grief of soldiers' families, want troops out. But premature departure, a victory salute to jihadists, would almost certainly mean anarchy. How many children's bodies does it take to make a bloodbath? And do Western peacemongers dare risk unleashing such a fate? Despite the real danger of making things worse, it may still be better, just, for the occupiers to stay.
But that offers no solution, beyond pushing back the last frontiers of hell. Mass troop deployment, or miracles, might help restore security, but neither looks likely. The only feasible way forward is a return to the human values invoked, so rashly, in the prospectus for war. That would mean humility and acknowledgment of failure. It would mean realising that military force is bankrupt. It would mean abandoning the politics of delusion before Afghanistan becomes Iraq Mark Two. It would mean treating with terrorists, where necessary, and taking Iran and Syria off the death row of diplomacy. It would mean accepting that the isolationism of Bush and Blair has achieved no victory, beyond moulding the template of an atomised world.
And it would mean dedicating all future foreign policy to those who die and suffer without even the consolation of hoping that their sacrifice will procure a better tomorrow. Any woman in any war-torn Iraqi street could tell our leaders that much. But she is too busy trying to stay alive.
Neela Banerjee, “Rape (and Silence About It) Haunts Baghdad,” New York Times, 16 July 2003.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 15 — In her loose black dress, gold hairband and purple flip-flops, Sanariya hops from seat to seat in her living room like any lively 9-year-old. She likes to read. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up, and she says Michael, her white teddy bear, will be her assistant.
But at night, the memory of being raped by a stranger seven weeks ago pulls her into its undertow. She grows feverish and has nightmares, her 28-year-old sister, Fatin, said. She cries, "Let me go!"
"I am afraid of the gangsters," Sanariya whispered in the twilight of her hallway. "I feel like they are killing me in my nightmares. Every day, I have these nightmares."
Since the end of the war and the outbreak of anarchy on the capital's streets, women here have grown increasingly afraid of being abducted and raped. Rumors swirl, especially in a country where rape is so rarely reported.
The breakdown of the Iraqi government after the war makes any crime hard to quantify.
But the incidence of rape and abduction in particular seems to have increased, according to discussions with physicians, law-enforcement officials and families involved.
A new report by Human Rights Watch based on more than 70 interviews with law-enforcement officials, victims and their families, medical personnel and members of the coalition authority found 25 credible reports of abduction and sexual violence since the war. Baghdadis believe there are far more, and fear is limiting women's role in the capital's economic, social and political life just as Iraq tries to rise from the ashes, the report notes.
For most Iraqi victims of abduction and rape, getting medical and police assistance is a humiliating process. Deeply traditional notions of honor foster a sense of shame so strong that many families offer no consolation or support for victims, only blame.
Sanariya's four brothers and parents beat her daily, Fatin said, picking up a bamboo slat her father uses. The city morgue gets corpses of women who were murdered by their relatives in so-called honor killings after they returned from an abduction — even, in some cases, when they had not been raped, said Nidal Hussein, a morgue nurse.
"For a woman's family, all this is worse than death," said Dr. Khulud Younis, a gynecologist at the Alwiyah Women's Hospital. "They will face shame. If a woman has a sister, her future will be gone. These women don't deserve to be treated like this."
It is not uncommon in Baghdad to see lines of cars outside girls' schools. So fearful are parents that their daughters will be taken away that they refuse to simply drop them off; they or a relative will stay outside all day to make sure nothing happens.
"Women and girls today in Baghdad are scared, and many are not going to schools or jobs or looking for work," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "If Iraqi women are to participate in postwar society, their physical security needs to be an urgent priority."
Beyda Jafar Sadiq, 17, made the simple decision to go to school on the morning of May 22 and never returned. Her family has been looking for her ever since. They have appealed to every international nongovernmental organization, the Iraqi police and the American authorities. Her eldest brother, Feras, 29, has crisscrossed the country, visiting the morgue in Basra in the south, traveling to Amara and Nasiriya on reports from acquaintances that they saw a girl who looked like Beyda.
"I just want to find her," said Beyda's mother, Zakiya Abd, her eyes swollen with grief. "Whether she's alive or dead, I just want to find her."
Some police in Baghdad concede that at this point, there is little they can do to help. Their precinct houses were thoroughly looted after the war. Despite promises from the American authorities, Baghdad police still lack uniforms, weapons, communications and computer equipment and patrol cars.
"We used to patrol all the time before the war," said a senior officer at the Aadimiya precinct house. "Now, nothing, and the criminals realize there is no security on the streets."
The Human Rights Watch report alleges that sometimes when women try to report a rape or families ask for help in finding abducted women, they are turned away by Iraqi police officers indifferent to the crimes. Some law-enforcement officials insist abduction and rape have not increased, while other officials and many medical personnel disagree.
Bernard B. Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner and now an adviser to the Interior Ministry, told of recently firing a precinct chief when he learned that the official had failed to pursue a family's report of their missing 16-year-old daughter. "The biggest part of the issue is a culture that precludes people from reporting," Mr. Kerik said. "It encourages people not to report."
If an Iraqi woman wants to report a rape, she has to travel a bureaucratic odyssey. She first has to go to the police for documents that permit her to get a forensic test. That test is performed only at the city morgue. The police take a picture of the victim and stamp it, and then stamp her arm. "That is so no one else goes in her place and says that she was raped, that she lost her virginity," said Ms. Hussein, the nurse.
At the morgue, a committee of three male doctors performs a gynecological examination on the victim to determine if there was sexual abuse. The doctors are available only from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. If a victim arrives at any other time, she has to return the next day, without washing away any physical evidence. Hospitals can check victims only for broader trauma, like contusions and broken bones.
Dr. Younis said she had seen more rape cases in the months after the war than before. Yet even when women come to the hospital with injuries that are consistent with rape, they often insist something else happened. A 60-year-old woman asserted that she had been hit by a car. The mother of a 6-year-old girl begged the doctor to write a report saying that her daughter's hymen had been ruptured because she fell on a sharp object, a common lie families tell in the case of rape, Dr. Younis said.
Shame and fear compel the lies, Dr. Younis said. "A woman's father or brother, they feel it is their duty to kill her" if she has been raped, Dr. Younis said. "It is the tribal law. They will get only six months in prison and then they are out."
Sanariya's family took her to a doctor three days after her attack only because the bleeding had not stopped. She had been sitting on the stairs at about 4 p.m. on May 22 when an armed man dragged her into an abandoned building next door. He shot at neighbors who tried to help the girl. He fled when she began screaming during the assault.
Her mother refuses to let her outside now to play. Fatin lied to her family and said an operation had been done to restore Sanariya's hymen. But when her eldest brother, Ahmed, found out otherwise, he wanted to kill Sanariya, Fatin said.
Out of earshot of her family, Sanariya said she feels no better now, two months after the attack. "I don't sleep at night," she said in the hallway. "I don't sleep."
”Côte d'Ivoire: Women and girls forgotten victims of conflict,” Amnesty International Press Release, 15 March 2007.
Amnesty International today revealed the horrifying extent of sexual violence against women and girls taking place in the context of the current conflict in Cote d'Ivoire, saying that the scale and brutal nature of the attacks are vastly underestimated.
"Hundreds -- if not thousands -- of women and girls have been and continue to be the victims of widespread and, at times, systematic rape and sexual assault committed by a range of fighting forces," said Véronique Aubert, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme.
In its report released today, Côte d'Ivoire: Targeting women – the forgotten victims of conflict, Amnesty International said that many women and girls are the victims of gang rape or are abducted and forced into sexual slavery by fighters. Rape is often accompanied by beatings and torture -- often committed in public and in front of family members. Some women have even been raped next to the corpses of family members.
"Women and girls -- some as young as ten years old -- are targeted mostly on ethnic or political grounds," said Véronique Aubert. "As symbols of the 'honour' of their communities, they are raped to humiliate the women, the men in their families, and their entire community. To our knowledge, none of the perpetrators of these crimes has ever been brought to justice."
"Rape and other forms of sexual violence have been used so extensively and with such impunity that we can only conclude that government security forces and armed opposition groups have been using these crimes as part of a deliberate strategy to instil terror in the civilian population," said Véronique Aubert.
Some of the worst abuses against women and girls are committed by mercenaries, notably from Liberia, who are attached to Côte d'Iviorian armed opposition groups in the west of the country. Several women interviewed by Amnesty International said that the fighters who attacked, abducted and raped them "spoke English".
Survivors are often stigmatized and abandoned by partners or families -- condemned to extreme poverty, often with dependent children.
Although no accurate statistics are available, it is widely believed that rape and sexual violence committed in the context of the conflict have worsened the HIV/AIDS crisis in Côte d'Ivoire substantially.
Victims of sexual violence are often unable to access what health care facilities do exist. Those living in areas controlled by the Forces Nouvelles are cut off from virtually all national public health services. Others are reluctant to travel due to the costs such travel entails and the serious risk they may be victimized again. In order to reach facilities, most women would have to pass through a series of roadblocks -- the location of many survivors' original rapes.
In its report, Amnesty International outlined several recommendations aimed at eliminating sexual violence against women and girls in Côte d'Ivoire. The recommendations relate to both the investigation of such crimes and ensuring effective judicial remedies, including compensation and rehabilitation.
"Rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by combatants or fighters during an armed conflict -- whether international or non-international -- are crimes against humanity and war crimes under international criminal law and should be treated as such," said Véronique Aubert. "Eliminating sexual violence must be a priority for any plan aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the current crisis in Côte d'Ivoire."
In September 2002, an armed uprising led to the most serious political and military crisis in Cote d'Ivoire's history since independence from France in 1960. Following a failed coup attempt, the country was divided in two, with the South controlled by the government and the North now held by a coalition of armed opposition groups called the New Forces (Forces Nouvelles).
The two sides are separated by a buffer zone controlled by more than 12,000 international troops, including UN peacekeeping forces and French troops. On 4 March 2007, an agreement was signed by President Laurent Gbagbo and the leader of the New Forces under which a new government is to be set up within five weeks. The agreement also foresees the gradual dismantling of the buffer zone and calls for progress on the main points of contention such as a census of the electorate, the disarming of rebels and their integration into the regular army.
”COTE D IVOIRE: Killings, torture and rape go unpunished on both sides of the front line,” IRIN Report, 13 Oct. 2005.
ABIDJAN, 13 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - More human rights violations including summary executions, politically motivated arrests, torture and rape are taking place across war-torn Cote d’Ivoire according to a UN report released on Thursday.
The report came as the UN Security Council opened a special meeting on Cote d'Ivoire in New York.
Spanning a three month period from June 2005, the report found that the human rights situation in the one time bastion of stability and economic success, continue to raise alarm.
“There is definitely a lack of improvement in the human rights situation as more and more violations are taking place,” UN human rights chief Simon Munzu told IRIN. “The level of violations we observe is still so high that we continue to be concerned.”
Things took a serious turn for the worse in the cocoa-growing western region, where in late May and early June, a spate of ethnic-motivated revenge killings left some 70 people dead and tens of thousands of villagers temporarily displaced.
Women and children were among those disemboweled and beheaded in the violence. And with tensions unresolved, the risk of more killings remains, Munzu warned.
Violations were reported in both the government-controlled south and rebel-held north, as well as from within the so-called zone of confidence, which is monitored by some 10,000 UN and French peacekeepers who keep the warring armies apart.
Though patrolling peacekeepers make arrests, when the criminals are handed over to the respective rebel or government authorities they are typically released without charges or punishment, according to the UN.
“This situation has contributed to maintaining a sense of total impunity among the criminals and a sense of injustice, incomprehension and distrust among the victims and the general population,” the report said.
The UN human rights division has urged the government to set up temporary local courts in the confidence zone to combat the sense of impunity reigning there.
But the situation in the government controlled south is no better. In late July, unidentified attackers opened fire on a police station in the government-controlled town of Agboville, killing several members of the security forces.
These outbreaks of violence sparked a wave of politically motivated arrests, beatings and detentions, the report says, while security forces have increasingly carried out summary executions of thieves in the main city of Abidjan in a bid to combat rising crime.
In the rebel territories, the overall human rights situation had also deteriorated as suspected government spies faced summary executions, prolonged detention or torture by New Forces fighters.
Under a series of peace accords signed over the last three years, thousands of pro-government militias have been identified for disarmament.
But the report points out a striking parallel between such militias and the gangs of traditional hunters known as Dozos that roam the north of the country. Both groups commit serious human rights violations “with total impunity as criminal investigations …never result in anything or are never even started”.
The presence of militia on both sides of the dividing line could “perpetuate the Ivorian crisis”, the report warns: “It’s on this level that international justice should immediately tackle the crimes committed in Cote d’Ivoire.”
Ivorians should have been heading to the polls on 30 October for peace-sealing elections, but last month that date was declared impossible by UN Secretary general Kofi Annan due to the intransigence of the warring parties, he said.
Sexual violence against women and girls, including rape, forced marriage and genital mutilation, is on the rise particularly in the northern rebel town of Korhogo.
And in poor areas married women are increasingly turning to prostitution to make ends meet, according to the report.
It also emerged that a network of human traffickers in Cote d’Ivoire is using middlemen to lure village girls from Nigeria with the promise of work as street vendors. Once arrived, the girls are forced to become sex workers, the report said.
The UN mission had so far helped four such girls return home to Nigeria.
”COTE D IVOIRE: University campus polarised by political violence,” IRIN Report, 29 Jul. 2005.
ABIDJAN, 29 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - At the main university in Cote d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, Abidjan, many scholars are more worried about self-defence than self-improvement on a campus dominated by a pro-government student union that uses rape and torture to maintain control.
Many students insist that the Students’ Federation of Cote d’Ivoire (FESCI) is nothing more than a government militia, with what some call a “mafia”-like hold on the university.
The United Nations and national and international human rights groups have accused FESCI, which is aligned to President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), of violence against students who support the opposition.
Dissension and heated political debate are nothing new at the treed campus in the smart Cocody part of town. Indeed, Gbagbo was a history lecturer and dean in the faculty of Languages and Cultures when he and other academics founded the FPI.
But unrest since a failed coup in 2002 has exacerbated hostilities among students and some say has allowed the FESCI to attack opponents with impunity.
When some members of a new rival union, the General Association of Students of Cote d’Ivoire (AGEECI), gathered at the university earlier this week, FESCI supporters attacked them and shut down the campus.
Students perpetrating rapes, assaults
Last week, the UN mission in Cote d’Ivoire, ONUCI, issued a statement condemning an escalation of violence at university campuses in Abidjan. ONUCI said there had been “serious human rights violations” and cases of rape and torture by students.
ONUCI called on the government to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of the violence.
In a report earlier this year the UN mission accused FESCI students of torture and detaining university students and personnel.
The Ivorian Human Rights League (LIDHO) earlier this month condemned FESCI for the rape and torture of student members of AGEECI.
“For several years FESCI has maintained a climate of aggression both on and off campus and its belligerent acts remain unpunished,” LIDHO said in a statement.
Nathalie Soro, an arts student and member of AGEECI, said she was gang-raped by four FESCI members last month. The rape took place on the day of a memorial service for Habib Dodo, a colleague who was killed in 2004, many believe by FESCI members.
“Today, I still have nightmares,” she told IRIN, adding that FESCI has warned her not to return to campus.
Few dare to speak out
AGEECI leader Innocent Gnelbin told IRIN that students and professors alike are appalled by FESCI and its ways, but most are too frightened to speak out.
“Even professors are afraid of being attacked by FESCI members if they speak in any way against the government; there is no criticism of the government allowed,” he said.
However, AGEECI members have decided to take a stand, at the risk of assault or even death, Gnelbin said.
“It’s true we will be tortured, mutilated, raped and even killed,” he said. “But we continue to believe in our cause. Gandhi has shown us the way.”
He said students need a true advocacy union that can support them.
“We want students to have a real union that will take up students’ problems and not a mafia that will only terrorise students,” he said. “We will not give up as long as this bullying and intolerance in the university setting justify our fight.”
In addition to sowing terror, students told IRIN, FESCI controls much of what goes on at the university – including which merchants or restaurateurs will do business on campus and who lives in campus accommodation.
“Here, the students of FESCI have all the rights,” university student Maurice Tchetche said. “They eat free at university restaurants and they have the rights to rooms in all the university residences.”
“When FESCI doesn’t approve of something the university administrators renounce the thing, as if they were the ones making the decision… We are afraid of FESCI,” he said.
The leader of FESCI since May, Serge Koffi Yao, insisted AGEECI is an organisation representing the rebels who control the northern half of Cote d’Ivoire since 2002.
“AGEECI is not a student organisation and we cannot let them meet on campus. It is a rebel organisation created in the rebel zone and seeking to spread its tentacles to the university,” he said.
FESCI was set up in 1990 and has a history of challenging the government of the day and even leading violent street clashes with the authorities. The organisation has been repeatedly banned as a result.
FESCI was not always so partial. Throughout the 1990s when the Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) held power, the student union represented a mix of political activists, shakily united in opposition to the ruling PDCI.
Charles Ble Goude, fiery leader of the Young Patriots, is a former FESCI leader from this period, as is his archrival, Guillaume Soro, now head of the rebels who occupy northern Cote d’Ivoire.
”Kenyan women take rape case to UN,” BBC News, 30 March 2005.
Several hundred Kenyan women who say they were raped by British soldiers based in the country are taking their case to the United Nations.
Their lawyer Joyce Majiwa has accused the Kenyan and UK authorities of not taking adequate action to help them.
The women, mostly from the Samburu and Masai tribes, are seeking millions of pounds in compensation from the MoD.
The British Royal Military Police (RMP) are still investigating the claims, said the Ministry of Defence.
More than 2,000 women had been interviewed since the inquiry into rape allegations began in 2003, said an MoD spokeswoman. She said the department had recorded 2,187 complaints of incidents spanning 25 years.
Kenyan police and the RMP are also looking into one claim of manslaughter.
The length of time since some of the alleged incidents had taken place, the remoteness of the area and the volume of information being gathered had all "complicated" the lengthy investigation, she added.
"The MoD takes these allegations extremely seriously. We want to get to the truth, we believe this is in everyone's best interests," she said.
Many of the women are represented by UK human rights lawyer Martyn Day.
Ms Majiwa told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that investigations into the alleged rapes had not been carried out in Kenya, and that the Kenyan authorities were not pressing the UK government for compensation.
"What kind of local remedy is going to be sufficient?" she said.
"We want to bring this matter into the international fore because it involves several nations."
She said she was sure the case would be covered by UN jurisdiction.
The women allege they were raped by British soldiers based in the north of Kenya in the 1980s and 1990s.
They have accused the military police investigation of not being independent.
Following a forensic examination of police records in Kenya, the British High Commission said in 2003 that all known reports of alleged rape by British soldiers had been forged.
But later, in a letter to Mr Day, the RMP said while a large proportion of the records were fake, others needed further investigation.
Mr Day and a local campaigner have previously conceded that only a few hundred cases may be genuine.
Ms Majiwa said the women have evidence to prove the rapes did take place - including children born as a result.
"The children are there. I think they are more than sufficient evidence," Ms Majiwa said.
"The women are there. They are able to give oral testimony.
"There are eye witnesses who saw what was happening and we believe this will support the case," she added.
”Troops sought over Kenya rape claims,” 20 Oct. 2003. Britain's military police are trying to identify individual soldiers who may face charges of raping women in Kenya.
The news is contained in a letter from the Royal Military Police to solicitor Martyn Day, who is representing hundreds of Maasai and Samburu tribeswomen making claims against the British Army.
The letter says some Kenyan police records relating to the rape claims, alleged to have taken place since the 1970s, are genuine.
This contradicts a claim last month by the British High Commission in Nairobi which said all the records seen so far were forgeries.
The letter, sent in early October, states that a large proportion of the records were indeed fake, but goes on to talk of others where further investigation is needed.
"Where a complainant reported an assault at the material time and where we are confident the evidence has not been fabricated, the complainant has been identified, interviewed and her testimony recorded," the letter said.
Military police say suspects are being sought in Britain.
Identifying their units should be straightforward, the letter says, but tracing the individuals is likely to be protracted.
Mr Day said the letter suggested "a significant number of cases that have passed through the first filter process, of genuine police records".
The British solicitor has talked of an epidemic of rape and is seeking a multi-million pound compensation package.
But he has also now conceded up to 80% of the women may be lying.
He said the figure of 100 rapes was now, as he put it, his "bottom line".
Mr Day said he had a "very sceptical" eye in relation to the claims after having acted for claimants in cases of unexploded ordnance left by British troops in Kenya.
Out of 5,500 initial claims, in this area, he says his firm has accepted 1,100 - or 20 per cent - as genuine.
The British investigation is set to continue in Kenya with officers focusing on two training areas in the hills north of Mount Kenya.
The investigators will be looking at documents which show that British and Kenyan officials met as far back as 1983 to discuss rape allegations.
Local human rights groups claim there was a cover up.
“Japan PM war slavery denial uncovers old pain,” CNN.com, 3 March 2007.
TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- Yasuji Kaneko, 87, still remembers the screams of the countless women he raped in China as a soldier in the Japanese imperial army in World War II.
Some were teenagers from Korea serving as sex slaves in military-run brothels. Others were women in villages he and his comrades pillaged in eastern China.
"They cried out, but it didn't matter to us whether the women lived or died," Kaneko said in an interview with The Associated Press at his Tokyo home. "We were the emperor's soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance."
Historians say some 200,000 women -- mostly from Korea and China -- served in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops, and the top government spokesman acknowledged the wrongdoing in 1993.
Now some in Japan's government are questioning whether the apology was needed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday denied women were forced into military brothels across Asia, boosting renewed efforts by right-wing politicians to push for an official revision of the apology.
"The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion," Abe said.
Abe's remarks contradicted evidence in Japanese documents unearthed in 1992 that historians said showed military authorities had a direct role in working with contractors to forcibly procure women for the brothels.
The comments were certain to rile South Korea and China, which accuse Tokyo of failing to fully atone for wartime atrocities. Abe's government has been recently working to repair relations with Seoul and Beijing.
The statement came just hours after South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun marked a national holiday honoring the anniversary of a 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule by urging Tokyo to come clean about its past.
Roh also referred to hearings held by the U.S. House of Representatives last month on a resolution urging Japan to "apologize for and acknowledge" the imperial army's use of sex slaves during the war.
"The testimony reiterated a message that no matter how hard the Japanese try to cover the whole sky with their hand, there is no way that the international community would condone the atrocities committed during Japanese colonial rule," Roh said.
Dozens of people rallied outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to mark the anniversary, lining up dead dogs' heads on the ground with pieces of paper in their mouths listing names of Koreans who allegedly collaborated with the Japanese during its 1910-45 colonial rule. Protest organizers said the animals were slaughtered at a restaurant; dogs are regularly consumed as food in Korea.
Roh's office said late Thursday it did not immediately have a direct response to the Japanese leader's remarks. In Beijing, calls to the Chinese Foreign Ministry seeking comment on the remarks were not immediately returned.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would not comment on Abe's statement. "I'll let the Japanese political system deal with that," he said.
Abe's comments were a reversal from the government's previous stance. In 1993, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized to the victims of sex slavery, though the statement did not meet demands by former "comfort women" that it be approved by parliament.
Two years later, the government set up a compensation fund for victims, but it was based on private donations -- not government money -- and has been criticized as a way for the government to avoid owning up to the abuse. The mandate is to expire March 31.
The sex slave question has been a cause celebre for nationalist politicians and scholars in Japan who claim the women were professional prostitutes and were not coerced into servitude by the military.
Before Abe spoke Thursday, a group of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers discussed their plans for a proposal to urge the government to water down parts of the 1993 apology and deny direct military involvement.
Nariaki Nakayama, chairman of the group of about 120 lawmakers, sought to play down the government's involvement in the brothels by saying it was similar to a school that hires a company to run its cafeteria.
"Some say it is useful to compare the brothels to college cafeterias run by private companies, who recruit their own staff, procure foodstuffs, and set prices," he said.
"Where there's demand, businesses crop up ... but to say women were forced by the Japanese military into service is off the mark," he said. "This issue must be reconsidered, based on truth ... for the sake of Japanese honor."
Sex slave victims, however, say they still suffer wounds -- physical and psychological -- from the war.
Lee Yong-soo, 78, a South Korean who was interviewed during a recent trip to Tokyo, said she was 14 when Japanese soldiers took her from her home in 1944 to work as a sex slave in Taiwan.
"The Japanese government must not run from its responsibilities," said Lee, who has long campaigned for Japanese compensation. "I want them to apologize. To admit that they took me away, when I was a little girl, to be a sex slave. To admit that history."
"I was so young. I did not understand what had happened to me," she said. "My cries then still ring in my years. Even now, I can't sleep."
”Japan anger at US sex slave bill,” BBC News, 19 Feb. 2007.
Japan has expressed its displeasure at a resolution before the US Congress calling on Tokyo to apologise for the country's use of sex slaves in wartime.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso said the resolution was not based on facts.
Sponsored by several members of the US House of Representatives, the proposed text urges Tokyo to formally resolve the issue of so-called "comfort women".
Japan admits its army forced women to be sex slaves during World War II but has rejected compensation claims.
Historians believe at least 200,000 young women captured during World War II were forced to serve in Japanese army brothels.
A large number of the victims - who were known as comfort women - were Korean, but they also included Chinese, Philippine and Indonesian women.
Mr Aso described the non-binding resolution, which was introduced in Congress earlier this month, as "extremely regrettable".
"It was not based on objective facts," he told a parliamentary committee meeting.
The resolution calls on Japan's prime minister to "formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility" for the comfort women.
The House of Representatives heard last week from three former comfort women who described the rape and torture they endured at the hands of the Japanese soldiers.
Japan acknowledged in 1993 that the imperial army set up and ran brothels for its troops during the war.
The government set up a special fund in 1995, which relies on private donations to provide compensation.
But many former comfort women reject the fund and want formal compensation from the government.
”Japan's WWII sex slaves testify,” CNN.com, 15 Feb. 2007.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Three World War II-era sex slaves are recounting the rape and torture they endured at the hands of Japanese soldiers, and the mental and physical scars that remain, as they try to persuade U.S. lawmakers to adopt a resolution urging the Japanese to apologize.
The two Koreans and a former Dutch colonist were among as many as 200,000 women who historians say were forced to have sex with millions of Japanese soldiers during the war. Japan objects to a congressional resolution introduced last month, which has caused unease in an otherwise strong U.S.-Japanese relationship.
In prepared testimony submitted before Thursday's hearing by the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, Kim Koon-ja spoke of the three years she spent as a young girl being raped by Japanese soldiers, sometimes as many as 40 a day.
"The war has ended, but for 62 years I have had to live a life with a scar in my heart," she testified. "The Japanese government continues to treat us as if we are not human."
"Governments must know that our bodies and our innocence have real value and worth," Kim said. "Governments must know that we will not forget."
Japan says that its leaders have repeatedly apologized. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, for instance, said in a letter sent in 2001 to the "comfort women" that he felt sincere remorse for their "immeasurable and painful experiences."
Japan acknowledged in the 1990s that its military set up and ran brothels for its troops. But it has rejected most compensation claims, saying they were settled by postwar treaties.
The Asian Women's Fund, created in 1995 by the Japanese government but independently run and funded by private donations, has provided a way for Japan to compensate former sex slaves without offering official government compensation. Many comfort women have rejected the fund.
In a letter sent to the U.S. congressional panel, Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ryozo Kato, said his country has recognized its responsibility, apologized and acknowledged its actions. "While not forgetting the past, we wish to move forward," Kato wrote.
A group of U.S. lawmakers is demanding more. Their resolution, which has yet to be endorsed by the House, urges Japan's prime minister to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the women's ordeal. It was unclear when the House panel would consider whether to endorse the resolution.
The resolution does not recommend that Japan pay reparations. Besides an official apology, it urges Japan to reject those who say the sexual enslavement never happened and to educate children about the comfort women's experience.
A similar resolution was passed last year by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Republicans, who then controlled Congress, never brought it before the full House for action.
Jan Ruff O'Herne was a Dutch colonist in Java when she was made to work in a Japanese brothel. She said in her prepared testimony to Congress that memories of being raped and beaten day and night, even by the doctor who examined her for venereal disease, "have tortured my mind all my life."
"Japan must come to terms with its history and acknowledge [its] wartime atrocities," she said.
Somini Sengupta, “All sides in Liberian conflict make women spoils of war,” New York Times, 20 Nov. 2003.
November 20, 2003 – (NYT) On that burning hot morning, peace had already been declared in this war-beaten country, West African peacekeepers were on the ground and President Charles G. Taylor had already left the country, ushering in what was widely seen as an end to strife.
Yet the lingering sound of gunfire sent Annie Joe running frightened through the woods and into a group of four or five men with AK-47's on their shoulders.
They demanded that she go with them. They kept her in a house all night and raped her, one after the other. In the morning they told her to go away. There was no use resisting. "When you want to fight, they say, `We kill you,' " she recalled.
Here as in other places, war made women the spoils of conquest, not unlike sacks of rice and four-wheel-drive vehicles. But what stands out is that in the succession of conflicts in Liberia since 1989, many women, and sometimes the same women, were raped by fighters from all sides.
They were raped when Mr. Taylor was a rebel leader fighting his way to the presidency. They were raped when the next band of rebels fought to oust him. They have been raped since Mr. Taylor's departure on Aug. 11, as his loyalists and enemies continue to fight in remote jungle outposts far from areas patrolled by 4,000 United Nations peacekeepers.
The scale of the problem is impossible to ascertain precisely in a country where everything has been destroyed. But anecdotal evidence suggests that 14 years of intermittent warfare crushed many traditional sanctions, unleashing conduct unthinkable in normal times.
Mothers and daughters were raped by the same men. Boys assaulted women old enough to be their mothers.
Rebuilding the social fabric is among the toughest challenges facing Liberia's transitional government. That government is made up of the very warring factions that are accused of atrocities, and it remains to be seen how it will respond to the competing demands of reconciliation and redress.
The chairman of the unity government, C. Gyude Bryant, has said nothing publicly about how war crimes will be punished, but some human rights advocates are calling on the United Nations mission here to support a commission of inquiry.
"In terms of justice, it's something that has to be addressed," said Leslie Lefkow, a researcher with the New York-based group Human Rights Watch. "It has happened on such a huge scale, and it has had such enormous repercussions for the society. I'm convinced that the level at which this has happened would constitute war crimes."
So far, the courts in this country have been hardly provided recourse. The stigma of rape still makes it a crime that most women here find too difficult to speak of.
Still, Mrs. Joe, 23, and a few other women gathered the courage to tell their stories one afternoon in a tarpaulin-and-grass tent that serves as a rape counseling center at a sprawling camp for displaced people. One woman, like Mrs. Joe, recalled being captured by armed men as she was fleeing fighting just north of here.
A third described how armed men had broken into her house, demanded money and then assaulted her while her baby lay on the floor, wailing. She still has no clue who they were, nor whom they were fighting for.
"Rebel, government, they are the same people!" she said. Her baby, a malnourished little boy, clung to her back.
In the capital, Monrovia, one mother, who wanted to be identified only by her village name, Ma Voph, screamed as she recounted how her daughter, Nannu, had been raped and killed on the morning of her 10th birthday.
On that Sunday morning in July, in a quiet residential section of Monrovia, she recalled how she had sung a chorus of "Happy Birthday," fixed Nannu a bowl of oats and let her indulge in a bottle of syrupy grape-flavored Fanta.
It was not even noon when men loyal to Mr. Taylor burst into her home. Terrified, Nannu clutched the end of her mother's blouse, yelling, "Mommy!"
One soldier, who called himself Black Dog, raped and killed Ma Voph's daughter. Another militiaman assaulted a 14-year-old girl whom the mother was raising.
Most of all, Ma Voph said, they took away her sense of herself. A stout, proud woman of 42, she described how she had pulled herself up from her village, cared for her siblings when their own mother died, opened a shop in the capital, bought a car, raised her own children and took in someone else's.
Then three men with guns wrecked it all. Delirious from grief, the woman whispered the same refrain again and again: "They used to call me Mother."
Over and over, she told Mariama Brown, the director of the Concerned Christian Community, the Liberian nonprofit group that runs rape counseling centers, that she would rather die than live.
"Where do I start from?" she wondered aloud. "Everything's gone."
”Rape surges amid anarchy in Liberia, Dispatch on line, 14 Aug. 2003.
CLUTCHING her daughter's photograph to her breast, Rebecca throws back her head and wails. Fighters burst into her home and raped the 10-year-old girl before her helpless mother, leaving the child lying in a pool of blood and vomit - dead.
Women are raped every time fighting surges in this war-battered country, but aid workers say that this time it's on a scale impossible to calculate, or fathom. Wild-eyed gunmen on both sides are going door to door, ransacking homes, beating and killing residents, and raping any women - or girls - they find.
"Those people are not human beings," sobs Rebecca, who has found shelter in a friend's yard.
July 20, the day Rebecca's daughter turned 10, began with the mother waking the sleeping child with a chorus of "Happy Birthday".
Rebecca gathered her son and a friend's 14-year-old girl with them for Sunday prayers.
Without warning, government fighters started pounding at the gate. When Rebecca, 42, refused them entry, they forced their way inside and started carting away the family's belongings.
One man - barely in his 20s - smashed Rebecca's head with a hammer and ripped off her clothes. When he realised she was menstruating, he kicked her.
Through it all, the 10-year-old held on tightly, crying "Mommy! Mommy!" Rebecca says - clutching the spot on her blouse as if she can still feel the child's tug.
Another fighter - going by the name Black Dog - ripped the child from her
mother and threw her to the floor.
"When he got through with her, I saw blood, I saw vomit, I saw toilet," she says, moaning rhythmically. "He raped her to death."
As her daughter lay on the floor, another man grabbed the 14-year-old, but she fought and kicked. Frustrated, he forced himself into her mouth.
The fighters took everything from the house, even the family album. Rebecca has only one picture left of her daughter, taken when she was 11 months old - a solemn child with bright bows in her hair, standing unsteadily with the help of a piece of furniture.
Falling to her knees, Rebecca sobs: "Just kill me. I want to die."
Figures for the latest sexual attacks are impossible to track - most victims are either cut off by fighting or too afraid of the stigma associated with rape to seek help. But the few counsellors left after international aid groups pulled out foreign staff said they've never seen so many cases.
Rape has always gone hand in hand with war in Liberia, where warlord President Charles Taylor's first grab for power in 1989 ushered in nearly 14 years of bloody strife.
"Every time there is an incursion going on, it is the same thing," says Miatta Roberts, 46, a counsellor with Concerned Christian Community - the only group remaining here that works with rape survivors. "When there is war going on, no woman is safe."
In earlier battles most attacks took place as women fled through the bush, but the aid workers say that women are now being raped in their own homes.
The attacks are usually linked to looting sprees by drunk, drugged and disaffected fighters. Many feel abandoned since Taylor bowed to mounting international pressure and pledged to hand over power, so they have launched what they call "Operation Pay Yourself".
With no functioning court system at the moment to hold gunmen accountable, Roberts sees no end to their excesses.
Of the 1500 women who participated in the group's trauma programmes at an athletics stadium turned teeming refugee camp, 626 have been raped.
In better times, the group provided the women with food, clothing, medical treatment, training and other relief. Now they can do little more than provide a safe haven and keep them busy.
The women play games together in a bamboo and tarpaulin enclosure and sing traditional songs to remind them of home.
Joining a circle of clapping, singing women, 20-year-old Alice breaks into a rare smile.
Three years ago, she was gang-raped in front of her whole family as they fled through the bush ahead of a rebel advance. Last month, pro-Taylor militia fighters caught up with her again on the outskirts of Monrovia, pulling her from a group of refugees huddled in an abandoned home to violate her again.
The repeated rapes have shattered her dreams of marriage and children. "I feel shame before men," she says. "No one approaches me now."
Violence against women is as widespread in rebel-held areas, aid workers say.
While fleeing the insurgents' latest advance, Kula's family stumbled into a rebel ambush. Her husband, mother, aunt and brother were killed on the spot.
When she finally reached a refugee camp on the outskirts of Monrovia, she thought she was safe. But soon the rebels were back, moving from hut to hut in search of women.
"They shared us among themselves," says Kula, who looks far older than her 47 years. "Everyone was crying."
Four days later, the same thing happened again. Rebels with stockings over their faces burst into the house where she was staying and grabbed all the women.
Two fighters raped Kula this time - one of them so young he could barely hold up his machine gun, she says. She guesses his age at 10.
"I think the women who can say they haven't been raped are very few," she says sorrowfully. "It pains my heart."
”War Spawns 'Half-Widows,' “ Aviva, 31 Dec. 2006.
The civil war has spawned a new term, 'half-widows', to describe the hundreds of women whose husbands are abducted by Maoist rebels or soldiers and remain missing, some for years. Feb. 13 will mark a decade since the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) emerged from the country's impoverished mid-western hills to launch its first attacks against police stations and other government institutions. The rebels now control huge swathes of territory in almost all of the country's 75 districts, where roughly 12,000 Nepalis, most of them innocent villagers caught in the crossfire, have been killed. Tens of thousands of others have fled their villages while many have been forcefully recruited by the Maoists or jailed by soldiers on suspicion of collaborating with them. A 2004 survey, in nine districts countrywide, found that 16% of women were either widows or had no idea where their husband were, and had thus become half-widows. Such women are more vulnerable in numerous ways, concludes a report by (NGO) Samanata - Institute for Social and Gender Equality. "A lot of women are living in constant fear of death of themselves or others (or of) abduction, rape or murder, of themselves, their daughters or daughters-in-law," said Samanata's executive chairwoman, Arzu Rana- Deuba. Ironically, the research also revealed that many women have become empowered because of the conflict but overall "the negative effects have more far-reaching effects than the positive ones", added Rana- Deuba. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) revealed that Maoists kidnapped 5,606 civilians during their three-month unilateral ceasefire from Sep. 3 to Dec. 3, most to attend "education" meetings. During that period, security forces killed 22 people while the rebels killed four, added the NHRC. The Maoists have extended the ceasefire until Jan. 3 but the government led by King Gyanendra again refused to reciprocate, calling the move a ruse so the rebels can re-arm. It also dismissed a 12-point pact signed by the rebels and an alliance of political parties designed to bring the Maoists into the political mainstream. Instead, the government is redoubling its efforts to hold municipal elections on Feb. 8, although the alliance is refusing to participate and the Maoists say they will disrupt the polls. The army has vowed to maintain security for the vote. A group of mostly women villagers padlocked the NHRC's door in the capital Kathmandu demanding that commissioners push the government to reveal the whereabouts of their missing family members. Local human rights groups say the state is responsible for the continuing disappearances of 901 people and the Maoists for 290.
According to Rana-Deuba, "the removal of one wage-earner (in a family) can mean total poverty for many". Her survey, questioned 227 individuals, 89% of them women. Some 83% of the families had been displaced, most of them moving from villages to heavily-guarded district headquarters towns or large citiesl, says the report, 'Changing Roles of Nepali Women due to the Ongoing Conflict and its Impact'. More than half of those questioned said they left because they feared for their own or their family's security, they feared abduction or were searching for work. "Most had enough to meet basic needs before the conflict but not after," said Rana-Deuba. "After being affected by conflict for five years there was a steep downward slide economically". Families adjusted by spending less money on food and other necessities, except schooling. "The last thing families are compromising on is children's education -- they value that greatly," she added. Still, the survey found that 44% of children had dropped out of school and only 37% of those had returned. With men absent, or in many cases too fearful to move outside the house or village, women have been forced to take on new roles in Nepal's strongly patriarchal society. 60% reported they were more active in their communities, 70% that they were borrowing money and two-thirds of women said they played larger roles in decision-making. Two-thirds of women said these new roles had boosted their confidence but 48% called them a "burden", the survey found. "As well as being physically and psychologically alone," said Rana- Deuba, widows or 'half-widows' "were more vulnerable to sexual overtures". "Sexual violence from security forces has become a new danger for women," she added. Nepalis must start now to discuss how they will cope in the vastly changed society that will remain when peace finally comes, stressed Rana- Deuba. "There is a danger that we won't look back at the societal fallout of the conflict" but focus on rebuilding the infrastructure, she warned. But some people continue living in the past, said Ava Darshan Shrestha, president of the NGO, Nagrik Awaz (Voices of the People). Researchers from her group met one old woman who unfailingly cooks a daily meal for her son -- although he has been missing for eight years. "The mothers were saying 'look, we have this sharp pain in our uterus' because their sons were missing, so we termed it 'foetal bereavement'," added Shrestha. Source: IPS News, 31.12.06.
Human Rights Watch, "Summary," "We'll Kill You if You Cry": Sexual Violence in the Sierra Leone Conflict. January 2003.
Throughout the armed conflict in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2001, thousands of women and girls of all ages, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic classes were subjected to widespread and systematic sexual violence, including individual and gang rape, and rape with objects such as weapons, firewood, umbrellas, and pestles. Rape was perpetrated by both sides, but mostly by the rebel forces. These crimes of sexual violence were generally characterized by extraordinary brutality and frequently preceded or followed by other egregious human rights abuses against the victim, her family, and her community. Although the rebels raped indiscriminately irrespective of age, they targeted young women and girls whom they thought were virgins. Many of these younger victims did not survive these crimes of sexual violence. Adult women were also raped so violently that they sometimes bled to death or suffered from tearing in the genital area, causing long-term incontinence and severe infections. Many victims who were pregnant at the time of rape miscarried as a result of the sexual violence they were subjected to, and numerous women had their babies torn out of their uterus as rebels placed bets on the sex of the unborn child. T
Thousands of women and girls were abducted by the rebels and subjected to sexual slavery, forced to become the sex slaves of their rebel "husbands." Abducted women and girls who were assigned "husbands" remained vulnerable to sexual violence by other rebels. Many survivors were kept with the rebel forces for long periods and gave birth to children fathered by rebels. Some abducted women and girls were forcibly conscripted into the fighting forces and given military training, but even within the rebel forces, women still held much lower status and both conscripted and volunteer female combatants were assigned "husbands." For civilian abductees, aside from sexual violence their brutal life with the rebels included being made to perform forced labor, such as cooking, washing, carrying ammunition and looted items, as well as farm work. Combatants within the rebel forces had considerable latitude to do what they wanted to abducted civilians, who were often severely punished for offenses as minor as spilling water on a commander's shoes. Escape for these women and girls was often extremely difficult: In many instances, the women and girls, intimidated by their captors and the circumstances, felt powerless to escape their life of sexual slavery, and were advised by other female captives to tolerate the abuses, "as it was war." The rebels sometimes made escape more difficult by deliberately carving the name of their faction onto the chests of abducted women and girls. If these marked women and girls were caught by pro-government forces, they would be suspected of being rebels, and often killed. Even though many women did manage to escape, some escaped from one rebel faction or unit only to be captured by another. An unknown number of women and girls still remain with their rebel "husbands," although the war was declared over on January 18, 2002.
The main perpetrators of sexual violence, including sexual slavery, were the rebel forces of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the West Side Boys, a splinter group of the AFRC. Human Rights Watch has documented over three hundred cases of sexual violence by the rebels; countless more have never been documented. From the launch of their rebellion from Liberia in March 1991, which triggered the war, the RUF perpetrated widespread and systematic sexual violence. Its ideology of salvaging Sierra Leone from the corrupt All People's Congress (APC) regime quickly degenerated into a campaign of violence whose principal aim was to gain access to the country's abundant diamond mines. The AFRC, which consisted of disaffected soldiers from the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) who in May 1997 overthrew the elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, were also responsible for subjecting thousands of women and girls to sexual violence, including sexual slavery. After the signing of the peace agreement in Lomé, Togo, in July 1999, sexual violence, including sexual slavery, continued unabated in RUF-controlled areas and was also perpetrated by the West Side Boys, who operated outside of the capital, Freetown. The human rights situation worsened after the May 2000 crisis when fighting broke out again, until relative peace was re-established, with U.N. and British assistance, by mid-2001. The prevalence of sexual violence peaked during active military operations and when the rebels were on patrol. Even in times of relative peace, however, sexual violence continued to be committed against the thousands of women and girls who were abducted and subjected to sexual slavery by the rebels. No region of Sierra Leone was spared.
Rawwida Baksh-Soodeen, “Women on the front line,” Daily Star (Dakha), 12 March 2001.
SATTA Gbondo was nine and her sister Patricia twelve when rebel fighters in Sierra Leone abducted them in April 1998. Their father Stephen has not seen them since. What happened to Stephen's daughters has happened to some 10,000 girls in Sierra Leone abducted by the Rebel United Front and used as active fighters, sex slaves, mules to carry supplies, and maids to prepare food in the camps.
"Displaced Women in Darfur Suffer Severe Depression," Feminist Daily News Wire, 21 December 2006.
A new study of internally displaced women in Sudan's South Darfur illuminates the bleak status of women's mental health in the volatile region. The study, which will be published in January by the International Medical Corps (IMC), found that although humanitarian aid helps meet women’s basic nutritional needs, the mental health of displaced women in Darfur is largely neglected.
Since the Darfur crisis began in 2003, more than 2 million people have been displaced internally within Sudan or have fled to nearby Chad. Though the region is difficult for aid workers and researchers to access, IMC was able to examine displaced women in refugee camps in South Darfur.
Almost one-third (31 percent) of women surveyed met the criteria for major depressive disorder while 63 percent reported suffering the emotional symptoms of depression. Five percent reported suicidal thoughts, 2 percent had attempted suicide, and another 2 percent of households had a member commit suicide in the past year. Nearly all of the respondents (98 percent) felt that counseling provided by humanitarian agencies would be the most helpful way of dealing with these feelings.
The IMC posits that women's multiple roles in society, along with constant stressors like low socio-economic status, domestic violence, and the threat of rape when venturing outside, may account for the poor mental health of these displaced women. Women's restricted access to education may also affect their ability to access proper care and make informed decisions about their own physical and mental health. Though depression rates are comparable to, or even lower than, those of other populations displaced by similar conflicts, the rates of suicide and suicidal ideation are "alarmingly high in contrast to general rates worldwide," according to the report. The IMC adds that conditions have only worsened since the original data was collected in 2005 and that, since data was solicited from a comparatively safer camp that was receiving basic humanitarian aid, the mental health situation is likely worse for women in other camps and in the Darfur region as a whole.
”Women demand end to Darfur rapes,” BBC News, 10 Dec. 2006.
International stateswomen have made a joint call for an end to rape and sexual violence in Sudan's conflict-torn region of Darfur.
Peacekeepers must be sent to protect women there, the group said in a letter published by newspapers worldwide.
Signatories include former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the Irish former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.
The call comes as protests on the issue are planned in 40 countries.
The letter says rape is being used "on a daily basis" as a weapon of war in Darfur.
The main signatories were joined by other prominent women including:
• veteran Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi • Graca Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela • Edith Cresson, former French prime minister • Glenys Kinnock, a UK member of the European Parliament • Carol Bellamy, former head of the UN children's fund.
Published on the eve of the Global Day for Darfur, the letter says that "women and young girls live in constant fear of attack".
Sudan's government is accused of being "unwilling or unable to protect its own civilians".
The international community is called upon to "deliver on its responsibility to protect these civilians".
Events to mark Darfur Day are due to take place in more than 40 countries and will include women-led protests outside Sudanese embassies.
The BBC's Jonah Fisher, in Khartoum, says the three-year war in Darfur has been characterised by rape and violence against women, mostly by the pro-government Arab Janjaweed militia.
The protests around the world will have no direct impact on the Sudanese government, he adds.
The government views the three-year crisis in Darfur as a Western invention, insisting that just 9,000 people have died.
It also denies reports of widespread rape, pointing out that the people of Darfur are Muslim and, therefore, incapable of rape.
In reality, though, at least 200,000 people have died in Darfur's and an estimated two million people, mostly black Africans whose villages have been attacked by the Janjaweed, have fled their homes.
Khartoum denies accusations it is backing the militias to put down an uprising by Darfur's rebel groups in 2003.
A force of 7,000 African Union peacekeepers has struggled to protect civilians in the absence of a strong, UN contingent.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Sudan/CHAD. ‘No one to help them.’ Rape extends from Darfur into eastern Chad,” Amnesty International, 7 Dec. 2006. "
We heard the Janjawid decide to open fire on the mosque and so we decided to run out… They captured the women… The men were holding their throats and sitting on their bodies so they could not move, and they took off their clothes and then used them as women. More than one man would use one woman. I could hear the women crying for help, but there was no one to help them." A woman speaking to Amnesty International about an attack on Djorlo, Chad, on 7 November 2006.
It is impossible to know how many women have been raped since the armed conflict began in Darfur in 2003. There have certainly been thousands.
The names of 250 women who had been raped, and harrowing information about their cases, were recorded by Amnesty International on a 10-day visit to just three refugee camps in Chad in 2004. Many of the women had been gang raped. There are 173 camps for displaced people in Darfur and 12 refugee camps in Chad.
Over 500 victims of rape were treated at 25 clinics of Médecins sans Frontières in Darfur between October 2004 and mid-February 2005. Most had been raped by members of Janjawid militias as they went about normal daily tasks outside the camp.
Recent months have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of rapes as Darfur has been plunged into new fighting. In just one camp in Darfur, Kalma camp, the International Rescue Committee reported that rapes of women rose from under four to 200 a month during five weeks in July and August 2006.
Despite the presence of an African Union peacekeeping force (African Union Mission in Sudan, AMIS) and international awareness of what is happening in Darfur, in 2006 rapes and other violence against women and girls have increased, not diminished.
Women rarely report rapes, even to medical staff, and humanitarian organizations have had to pull out of many areas of Darfur. The number of women receiving medical treatment is thus probably only a fraction of those raped or subjected to other forms of sexual violence.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence by fighters are recognized as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The large-scale and often systematic rape of women is the most flagrant example of the violence suffered by women in Darfur. Over and over again Darfuris have expressed this as something out of the ordinary and horrific: "It didn’t happen in any previous war ever fought in Darfur".
At the beginning of the conflict, women would not talk about rape. "Women will not tell you easily if such a thing happens to them. In our culture, it is a shame, and women will hide this in their hearts so that the men do not hear about it", one woman refugee in Chad told Amnesty International in 2003.
Only in the second year of the killings and mass forced displacements, when thousands had been raped, when the children of rapes were being born, and when it was clear that rape could no longer be hidden, did women begin to talk.
Rape as a weapon of war
Rape and other forms of sexual violence in Darfur are not just a consequence of the conflict or of undisciplined troops. Rape is a weapon of war. Its aim is to humiliate, punish, control, instil fear, and to drive women and whole communities from their land. The circumstances in which rapes are committed and their increasing number suggest that rape is often used to terrorize populations, to threaten them, to forcibly displace them.
The vast majority of rapes, abductions, sexual enslavements and other forms of sexual violence have been committed by the government-supported Janjawid militias.
"Suddenly the Janjawid attacked us… The majority [of the girls] managed to escape; me, my cousin and my sister were captured… One of them forced me on the ground and all the time I was resisting them…all the time one of the Janjawid kept his gun pointed at my head… Four of them raped me." A 16-year-old girl describes an attack to Human Rights Watch, February 2005.
The Sudanese Janjawid have now taken their brutal attacks on civilians across the border into neighbouring Chad. In alliance with armed elements from certain ethnic groups in Chad, their aim appears to be to empty the areas bordering Sudan of a diverse range of ethnic groups who identify themselves and are identified by others as "African" rather than "Arab." They are again raping women as part of this process.
"It was the 8th day of Ramadan [30 September 2006] and eight of us – we are all about the same age between 15 and 16 – were looking for firewood… We then came across three men on horseback wearing jellabiyas... They pointed their guns at us and insulted us, calling us Nawab [plural of Nuba or "Africans", used as an insult] and telling us that the land did not belong to us. They also hit us with their horse whips and ends of their rifles. They then took one of the girls, and one held her by her arms and one by her legs and one raped her, they took turns… Only four of the girls were raped." A Dajo girl speaking to Amnesty International in Chad, November 2006.
Members of the armed forces, police and reserve police have also committed rape.
"They wore army uniforms and one had a Kalashnikov… They whipped me with two whips, used by three men… I said nothing, I could not scream. I was raped by all five. I did not report the rape because they were government soldiers." A woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch in North Darfur, July 2004.
Increasing numbers of rapes, by displaced men of displaced women, are reported within the camps for the internally displaced, where hundreds of thousands of Darfuris are often effectively imprisoned by Janjawid militias. Many of those who live or work in the camps say that there is more domestic violence too, by husbands and family members.
There are far fewer reports of rape involving armed opposition groups. However, a number of rapes by members of the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army – one of the signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement in May and now operating alongside government forces – were reported in the Tawila area in April 2006 and at the time of attacks and killings in Korma on 5 and 6 July 2006.
Sexual enslavement and attacks near the camps
Some women are kept in sexual slavery. One woman from Darfur described what happened to her when her village was attacked. She had a baby in her arms and said she was two months pregnant when she was raped.
"I was taken away by attackers in khaki and civilian clothes along with dozens of other girls and had to walk for three hours. During the day, we were beaten… We were taken to a place in the bush where we were raped several times at night. For three days, we did not receive food and almost no water. We were surrounded by armed guards. After three days, the Janjawid had to move to another place and set us free." A woman from Darfur, interviewed by Amnesty International in Chad, 2004.
Such abductions continue in 2006. On 7 October 2006, during an attack on Djimeze Djarma in Chad, a group of women were captured by Janjawid and held for 20 days.
"The men made us cook, fetch water, feed their camels and horses, and cook food for them. They would move between us and if we disobeyed they would beat us with their whips. We suffered a lot. I thought that I would be killed." A woman interviewed by Amnesty International in Chad, November 2006.
Most of the internally displaced, especially in West Darfur, are virtual prisoners in the camps. The Janjawid occupy the land and those who venture out of the camps face the threat of being killed, beaten or raped. These terror tactics ensure that vast swathes of territory are kept empty of targeted ethnic groups who will not dare to return to their land. Gathering firewood and fetching water are traditionally women’s work, but women who leave the camps for these necessities of life risk rape in 2006 as in 2004.
"In Garsila the women wanted to bring firewood and water, and many were raped by Janjawid." A man from Garsila district, Darfur, interviewed in 2004.
Impunity for the rapists
Those who rape benefit from almost total impunity. AMIS forces have often tried to protect women, for instance by carrying out firewood patrols, but they lack sufficient numbers of troops. When a woman is raped, they tend to take no action.
"The AU [AMIS] is not interested in the displaced… When girls are raped in the neighbourhood of the camp, the AU’s only action is to bring the girl back to the camp. They do not carry out any investigation into the event". A Masalit woman from Darfur, speaking to Amnesty International in Chad, 2006.
The police are deeply distrusted, particularly by those who have been raped.
"I cannot complain to the police, they will punish me even more, some Janjawid are in the police and some policemen themselves are Janjawid." A girl who had been raped, talking in a North Darfur camp for the displaced in 2004.
The police frequently fail to take action to protect civilians under attack. In one case villagers sought shelter at a police station. The police reportedly stood by while Janjawid raped women, and shot and tortured men from their community who tried to protect them.
"They took girls away for long hours and brought them back later. Girls were crying, we knew they raped them. Some of us were raped in front of the crowd… I resisted them… They hit me and decided to rape me in front of others… Some young men tried to protect us…they received shots in both their legs… Others were hanged on the tree naked." A Fur woman from South Darfur, interviewed by Human Rights Watch, February 2005.
The trauma and the stigma
The perpetrators of rape know very well the effect rape will have on a woman – not only the personal, psychological consequences, but that a married woman might be divorced, an unmarried woman never find a husband.
"Then two of the men raped me… I have not told anyone what happened to me… I do not know how my husband would react if he were to know. Men are different and some get angry with the woman." A displaced woman near Goz Beida in Chad, speaking to Amnesty International, November 2006.
Even when families arrange a marriage for a daughter who has been raped, the victim remains traumatized and the social stigma can devastate the family.
"My daughter screams at night… I never talk to her about what happened, although she knows that I know what happened to her… Her father became very ill since that time. He never goes out with the rest of the men and he does nothing but staying inside the room… Now my daughter is married to her cousin, but where is he? He does not communicate with her or with us." The mother of a 16-year-old girl, interviewed by Human Rights Watch, South Darfur, February 2005.
Rape can in some circumstances result in death or lasting injury. Female genital mutilation by infibulation, which occurs among some groups in Darfur and eastern Chad, can increase the severity of injuries incurred during rape, and can contribute to, for example, severe blood loss.
"They beat us and told us that you blacks are not going to stay here, we will finish you all. They then grabbed my half-sister who was only 10 years old… I saw two of them lie with my half-sister and then they went away. When we got there she was very hurt and was bleeding. She continued to bleed for the following two days and then died." A displaced woman describing an attack by uniformed men near Goz Beida in Chad to Amnesty International, November 2006.
The dilemmas facing women who become pregnant as a result of rape are great. Some leave their families to hide their shame. Others are rejected by their family and give up the child for adoption. Others again stay and raise the child.
"A raped girl comes back to her family, and eventually delivers the baby and raises the child, as infanticide would be haram [forbidden]" A refugee from Darfur in Chad, interviewed in 2006.
The UN Secretary-General said in March 2005 that he was "very concerned by the disturbing reports of arrests by the police of unmarried women in the Mukjar area (West Darfur) who have become pregnant as a result of rape." Pregnant unmarried women in Sudan have frequently been charged with adultery and face a flogging if convicted. Adultery is a capital crime for a married woman under the 1991 Penal Code.
When Amnesty International delegates tried to discuss the extent of the problem of rape in Darfur with the Sudanese government in 2004, every member of the government they met said that rape could not happen in Sudan. In July 2004 the government set up Rape Committees, composed of a woman judge, prosecutor and policewoman, which travelled to each Darfur State. But women said they did not trust the Committees, which reported that they had found only isolated rape cases.
An overstretched community of humanitarian workers and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has difficulty in providing medical services or counselling to most of those who suffer rape or sexual violence. However, some humanitarian agencies and Sudanese NGOs are working with raped women from the camps in particular, and some women from the camps in Darfur are also counselling and helping women. One woman in a displaced camp in South Darfur who was raped in front of her husband – who was killed when he tried to protect her – overcame her grief and anger, and committed herself to provide support to other women who had survived violence.
Time to protect the women of Darfur and Chad
The horrific pattern of sexual and other violence against women which has emerged from Darfur is by no means unique. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of women affected by conflict around the world have suffered the same fate.
Violence against women, as defined in international standards, is prohibited at all times, in all its forms, by international and regional treaties, as well as by customary international law. Even in times of armed conflict, women and girls have the right to be free from crimes which constitute violence against women.
Today, there can no longer be any excuse for ignoring the scale of crimes against women in conflict. With almost daily news reports from war zones across the globe, no one can claim that they do not know what is happening. No one can hide behind the excuse that nothing can be done. There is an urgent need to find more effective forms of action proportionate to the scale and gravity of the crimes that are unfolding.
”Darfur rebels kill, rape to enforce deal: Amnesty,” Reuters, 1 Aug. 2006.
Aug 1, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Darfur rebels who signed a peace deal with the government killed and raped civilians to try to force them to support the unpopular accord, human rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday. …
"Some 72 people were killed, 103 injured and 39 women raped in targeted attacks against civilians in the Korma region," said Amnesty in a statement.
Nicholas D. Kristof, “A Policy of Rape,” New York Times, 5 June 2005.
All countries have rapes, of course. But here in the refugee shantytowns of Darfur, the horrific stories that young women whisper are not of random criminality but of a systematic campaign of rape to terrorize civilians and drive them from "Arab lands" - a policy of rape.
One measure of the international community's hypocrisy is that the world is barely bothering to protest. More than two years after the genocide in Darfur began, the women of Kalma Camp - a teeming squatter's camp of 110,000 people driven from their burned villages - still face the risk of gang rape every single day as they go out looking for firewood.
Nemat, a 21-year-old, told me that she left the camp with three friends to get firewood to cook with. In the early afternoon a group of men in uniforms caught and gang-raped her.
"They said, 'You are black people. We want to wipe you out,' " Nemat recalled. After the attack, Nemat was too injured to walk, but her relatives found her and carried her back to camp on a donkey.
A neighbor, Toma, 34, said she heard similar comments from seven men in police uniforms who raped her. "They said, 'We want to finish you people off,' " she recalled.
Sometimes the women simply vanish. A young mother named Asha cried as she told how she and her four sisters were chased down by a Janjaweed militia; she escaped but all her sisters were caught.
"To this day, I don't know if they are alive or dead," she sobbed. Then she acknowledged that she had another reason for grief: a Janjaweed militia had also murdered her husband 23 days earlier.
Gang rape is terrifying anywhere, but particularly so here. Women who are raped here are often ostracized for life, even forced to build their own huts and live by themselves. In addition, most girls in Darfur undergo an extreme form of genital cutting called infibulation that often ends with a midwife stitching the vagina shut with a thread made of wild thorns. This stitching and the scar tissue make sexual assault a particularly violent act, and the resulting injuries increase the risk of H.I.V. transmission.
Sudan has refused to allow aid groups to bring into Darfur more rape kits that include medication that reduces the risk of infection from H.I.V.
The government has also imprisoned rape victims who became pregnant, for adultery. Even those who simply seek medical help are harassed and humiliated.
On March 26, a 17-year-old student named Hawa went to a French-run clinic in Kalma and reported that she had been raped. A French midwife examined her and confirmed that she was bleeding and had been raped.
But an informer in the clinic alerted the police, who barged in and - over the determined protests of two Frenchwomen - carried Hawa off to a police hospital, where she was chained to a cot by one leg and one arm. A doctor there declared that she had not been raped after all, and Hawa was then imprisoned for a couple of days. The authorities are now proposing that she be charged with submitting false information.
The attacks are sometimes purely about humiliation. Some women are raped with sticks that tear apart their insides, leaving them constantly trickling urine. One Sudanese woman working for a European aid organization was raped with a bayonet.
Doctors Without Borders issued an excellent report in March noting that it alone treated almost 500 rapes in a four-and-a-half-month period. Sudan finally reacted to the report a few days ago - by arresting an Englishman and a Dutchman working for Doctors Without Borders.
Those women who spoke to me risked arrest and lifelong shame by telling their stories. Their courage should be an inspiration to us - and above all, to President Bush - to speak out. Mr. Bush finally let the word Darfur pass his lips on Wednesday, after 142 days of silence, but only during a photo op. Such silence amounts to acquiescence, for this policy of rape flourishes only because it is ignored.
I'm still chilled by the matter-of-fact explanation I received as to why it is women who collect firewood, even though they're the ones who are raped. The reason is an indication of how utterly we are failing the people of Darfur, two years into the first genocide of the 21st century.
"It's simple," one woman here explained. "When the men go out, they're killed. The women are only raped."
Katharine Houreld, “First the Women Are Raped, Then They Are Jailed, Fined,” Globe and Mail, 5 March 2005.
Assaults in Sudan are used deliberately to fragment community, aid worker says
BENDISI, SUDAN—Fatima was 15 when she was gang-raped in front of her mother. Seven months later, the heavily pregnant schoolgirl was arrested by the Sudanese police and charged with fornication. They threatened to whip her if she didn’t pay a fine.
“They asked me who was the father of my baby,” she said, twisting a piece of paper between her fingers. “I told them I didn’t know. There were seven men on horses. Three of them raped me and four of them beat my mother. We had gone to get onions from our farm.”
After she had spent three days in prison with no food and nothing to sleep on but the bare earth, Fatima’s father collected money from relatives. Last week, he finally paid 12,000 ($60) of the 20,000 dinars that the police demanded. “The police said he must pay the rest by the time my baby is delivered or I will be whipped.”
Since 2003, when local African tribes took up arms against perceived neglect and discrimination by the central government, thousands of women have been raped. Many of the victims have been branded to ensure that they never escape the stigma.
Most of the women simply identify their attackers as janjaweed, a generic term for the nomadic, Arabic-speaking gunmen who often work in concert with the Sudanese armed forces.
The nomads have a history of conflict with the African tribes over land rights but the government’s twin gifts of impunity and automatic weapons escalated traditional tensions into all-out war.
Médecins sans frontières (Doctors without Borders) has treated nearly 400 Darfur women for rape in the past six months, although they say the stigma of being victims prevents many from reporting the crime.
“Rape is being used as a deliberate way to fragment the family and community,” said one local aid worker, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Many of these women are raped by soldiers and police as well [as the janjaweed].”
In Bendisi, a town in the west, hundreds of women like Fatima have been jailed after they became pregnant by their attackers. The police typically demand fines ranging from 15,000 to 25,000 dinars. Often, they rape the women again while they are held in prison, under the pretext of interrogating them.
“The police told me that I could pay 15,000 dinars or I could be raped 40 times,” said one 18-year-old, huddled in a corner. “They will take my money now but they never heard my cry when the janjaweed came for me.”
Other women confirmed that the police had had sex with them while in prison, promising shorter sentences or smaller fines.
During the day, the prisoners are often forced to work as domestic labour, carrying water, cooking or cleaning for their jailers. The women are charged with having extramarital sex, despite the fact that under Islamic law, a woman who is raped is not considered guilty of a crime.
Some of the women, their houses destroyed and their family dead, have no one to help them. Sixteen-year-old Hawa, gang-raped by three men while collecting firewood, cradles her two-month old son Hamoudi in a ragged green blanket. Her own shawl has several holes in it. She is sleeping rough after her grandmother threw her out because she became pregnant.
“The police held me for 10 days in a cell. They didn’t give me any food and there was nowhere to sleep,” she whispered, tucking the blanket around the face of her sleeping son.
“I told them I have no money. They whipped me on my chest and my back. I was bleeding a lot.” She was eight months pregnant, and terrified.
Even after her punishment, Hawa’s troubles are not over. The police are still demanding 20,000 dinars. Four times a week, with her son strapped to her back, she and a group of other women in the same predicament walk several kilometres over a mountain to find gravel.
They load heavy buckets filled with stones onto their heads and return to make cement to sell in the marketplace. So far, Hawa has made 2,000 dinars in two months.
Every time she leaves the confines of the town she is vulnerable again. Many of these women have been raped several times: once when their village was attacked and later when they venture out of the town to gather water or firewood.
“The janjaweed came to my village in August, 2003,” said 25-year-old Nadifa. “During the fight, four men came to my tukel [hut]. They said you can choose, we can kill you or we will rape you. Then four of them tied my hands and legs so I was spread-eagled between two beds. They raped me and left me tied up for the whole day. They kept coming back. At the end of the day they let me go and burnt my house.”
Still traumatized by the attack in August of 2003, Nadifa joined the other 1.85 million people displaced by the conflict. She fled to nearby Bendisi for security, but last July, she was raped again as she gathered firewood on the outskirts of town. Zzzz After she became pregnant, the police arrested her and kept her in a cell for two days. Her neighbours, themselves displaced and impoverished, scraped together 15,000 dinars to release her but the police have kept her name on a list. They promised to visit her again once her baby has been born.
At least some officials in the Sudanese government are aware of what is going on. When a judge visited from Garsila, a nearby town where similar cases have been reported, he merely cautioned the officers to stop recording women’s names lest the list should be used as evidence against them. Yet the arrests, the fines and the whippings continue.
“Who will want to marry me now?” asked Fatima, her young eyes filling with tears. “Maybe an old man, more than 50. I am destroyed. I have lost my chance in life.”
Imam El-Leithy, “No Genocide, Mass Rapes In Darfur: WHO,” Islam Online, 29 July 2004, downloaded from http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-07/29/article03.shtml, 3 Jan. 2007.
DARFUR, July 29 (IslamOnline.net) - International, western and Arab organizations underlined that the situation in Darfur province, west of Sudan, does not amount to genocide or ethnic cleansing as claimed by western powers, chiefly the US.
They acknowledged, however, that there is a "humanitarian catastrophe" in the province aggravated by fighting between rebels and the government forces.
"Reports submitted by the WHO employees have not mentioned any acts of ethnic cleansing, genocide or mass rapes as claimed by western human rights organizations," Dr Hussein Gezairy, Regional Director of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Region, told IslamOnline.net correspondent in Darfur.
"The main problem we are facing here is a humanitarian one due to the health conditions of displaced people," he averred.
The WHO official also asserted that the "situation in Darfur is not much different from that in the rest of Sudan which suffers a development crisis like most African countries."
"There are political powers seeking to condemn Sudan through claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur," Dr Gezairy said.
An official in the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) group agreed.
In statements published Wednesday, July 28, by the Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar, he regretted the frequent use of expressions that do not reflect the facts on the ground and only fall within a propagation campaign.
"What is going on in Darfur is not genocide but rather a humanitarian tragedy," said the MSF official.
On Thursday, July 22, the US House Of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution describing the situation in Darfur a "genocide ."
However, Sudanese officials and experts have refuted the claims and warned of plots targeting the unity of the oil-exporting country.
Dr Gezairy warned that "any sanctions slapped against Sudan would stymie the cooperation shown by the Sudanese government with relief agencies."
The WHO official exhorted western countries to "back the cooperation currently shown by Khartoum instead of indicting it, a matter that would aggravate the situation in Darfur and the Sudan in general."
The MSF official echoed similar conviction.
"Imposing sanctions on Sudan under the pretext of genocide acts in Darfur would harm and not improve relief works."
A US draft resolution threatening sanctions against Sudan in 30 days was met with opposition in the UN Security Council on Wednesday, July 28, amid calls to give the Sudanese government more time to rein in militias in Darfur.
Seven of the Council's 15 members pressed the US to soften a threat of UN sanctions against Khartoum it failed to disarm Janajaweed militias in Darfur.
Dr. Mansour Hassan, who championed an Egyptian medical envoy to Darfur, agreed with the WHO official.
"The catastrophic situation in Darfur can not be denied but rumors about organized rape and genocide are but attempts by the western states to indict the Sudanese government," he said.
"We have examined more than 27,000 cases, mostly women, and never heard of a case of forced pregnancy," Dr. Hassan, whose medical team visited six camps of displaced Darfuris, told IOL.
The head of the Egyptian medical convoy also refuted allegations of genocide acts in Darfur.
"Around 99% of the families he saw in the camps were 'complete families' that have not been exposed to any such acts of genocide."
Dr. Hassan said his team performed se