Sunday, October 07, 2007

what is rape compared to war?

in a previous post i hinted that women may look at war differently than men. for men (pundits, commentators, strategists, etc.) war might just be a 'political' situation, an intellectual problem or some theoretical exercise in national identity. for women caught in the crosshairs of war, either as civilians or soldiers, war can sometimes mean something else entirely: rape, sexual violence, and sexual exploitation.

the following article is a patently clear example of what war, or any civil conflict, means to women in these areas.

BUKAVU, Congo — Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, cannot bear to listen to the stories his patients tell him anymore.
Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair.
“We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,” said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo’s rape epidemic. “They are done to destroy women.”
Eastern Congo is going through another one of its convulsions of violence, and this time it seems that women are being systematically attacked on a scale never before seen here. According to the
United Nations, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and that may be just a fraction of the total number across the country.
“The sexual violence in Congo is the worst in the world,” said John Holmes, the United Nations under secretary general for humanitarian affairs. “The sheer numbers, the wholesale brutality, the culture of impunity — it’s appalling.”

one of the consequences of such widespread rape is that sexual assault against women and girls (the doctor has said that his youngest victims are 3 years old) has become normative in society.
While rape has always been a weapon of war, researchers say they fear that Congo’s problem has metastasized into a wider social phenomenon.
“It’s gone beyond the conflict,” said Alexandra Bilak, who has studied various armed groups around Bukavu, on the shores of Lake Kivu. She said that the number of women abused and even killed by their husbands seemed to be going up and that brutality toward women had become “almost normal.”
Malteser International, a European aid organization that runs health clinics in eastern Congo, estimates that it will treat 8,000 sexual violence cases this year, compared with 6,338 last year. The organization said that in one town, Shabunda, 70 percent of the women reported being sexually brutalized.

so, what are 'women's issues' compared to war?
apparently, they aren't very much.

Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War - New York Times


Pai said...

What I found most depressing, is that the initial reaction by commenters (at HuffPo, at least) was to write the story off as a big hoax.

The fact that such a reaction is so common when it comes to sexual assault in general, just depressed me for the rest of the day.

ding said...

you're kidding. on Huffington Post? they're supposed to be at least a little progressive!

god. that's really unbelievable.

but you're right. for some reason, rape is one criminal act that folks have a hard time thinking about as criminal. it's easy to see murder as wrong - after all, who wants to be killed?

but the reaction to rape is different. the rapist is lost in the mix and the actions of the woman are held up to censure. even though no woman wants to be raped, women are hardly believed when they say they have been. it's almost like we're expected to be raped, so why question it?

or, if we're not expected to be raped, then we're expected to lie about being raped. so, the thinking goes: since those boys at Duke were exonerated, then all rape accusations are false. i don't get the logic. but then again, i just don't get sexism.

ding said...

wow. i just read the comments.
i don't get why this story is somehow not credible.

because it questions the sovereignty of the region? that seems a stretch.
because what's happening seems so crazy and out of control?
or because it's reported in the nytimes?

totally bizarre.

AV1021 said...

The worst part about this article is that, and correct me if i'm wrong this nation still holds women as the "housewife" type correct then isn't the husband supposed to protect her (unless of course he is killed) and what about the women you know that they would have had to heard one way or another about the rapes, why didn't they come together to protect each other I'm not trying at all to say that it is their own fault it's just if it was happening in this country we are fighters girls