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We first thought about starting this piece with the story ofSaleha Begum, a survivor of Bangladesh's 1971 war in which, some reports say, as many as 400,000 women were raped. Begum had been tied to a banana tree and repeatedly gang raped and burned with cigarettes for months until she was shot and left for dead in a pile of women. She didn't die, though, and was able to return home, ravaged and five months pregnant. When she got home she was branded a "slut."
We also thought of starting with the story of Ester Abeja, a woman in Uganda who was forcibly held as a "bush wife" by the Lord's Resistance Army. Repeated rape with objects destroyed her insides. Her captors also made her kill her 1-year-old daughter by smashing the baby's head into a tree.
We ran through a dozen other stories of women like Begum and Abeja, and finally realized that it would be too difficult to find the right one -- the tale that would express exactly how and in what wayssexualized violence is being used as a weapon of war to devastate women and tear apart communities around the world, conflict by conflict, from Libya to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dr. Seham Sergewa had been working with children traumatized by the fighting in Libya but, after being approached by mothers who reported that they had been raped, added a question about rape to the survey she was distributing to Libyans living in refugee camps. 259 women said they had been raped by militiamen loyal to Muammar Qaddafi.
From the article:
Dr. Sergewa's questionnaire was distributed to 70,000 families and drew 59,000 responses.
"We found 10,000 people with PTSD, 4,000 children suffering psychological problems and 259 raped women," she said, adding that she believes the number of rape victims is many times higher but that woman are afraid to report the attacks.
The women said they had been raped by Qaddafi's militias in numerous cities and towns: Benghazi, Tobruk, Brega, Bayda and Ajdabiya (where the initial three mothers hail from) and Saloum in the east; and Misrata in the west.
Some just said they had been raped. Some did not sign their names; some just used their initials. But some felt compelled to share the horrific details of their ordeals on the back of the questionnaire.
Today is the culmination of the Nobel Women's Inititative's conference to end sexual violence in conflict. And how appropriate--they are ending it with a day of action! Love it. Here is their call to action:
Did you know that up 500,000 women were raped during the Rwandan genocide? Did you know that over 64,000 women were raped in Sierra Leone? Did you know that over 40,000 women were raped in Bosnia-Herzegovina? Did you know that thousands of women are raped every day in Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo?
Enough is enough. Thursday is our international day of action against sexual violence in conflict.
CNN: Rape has become the weapon of choice in the war-torn Congo, with more than 500 rapes committed by rebels since late July. Women are constantly attacked and do not feel safe while working, in the home or with their families. While the United Nations have been slow to respond, they are working to toughen efforts to prevent rapes in the region.
"U.N. officials on Tuesday put the number of rapes and other sexual attacks in eastern Congo since late July at more than 500, more than double the previous estimate.
In remarks prepared for delivery to the Security Council after returning from a fact-finding trip to the region, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare cited 267 rapes or other sexual attacks in the town of Uvira -- on the eastern edge of the country -- and other nearby regions of North and South Kivu, in addition to the 242 rapes that had already been reported in and near the village of Luvungi.
U.N. officials have said they will toughen efforts to stop rapes in the region.
"The women of eastern DRC deserve better," said Margot Wallstrom, a U.N. special representative for sexual violence in conflict who sent a senior member of her staff with Khare on his fact-finding mission to the region. "For them, there is no safe place. They are raped when harvesting crops; when going to market; when fetching water and firewood; when carrying their babies; when in their homes at night, among their loved ones."
She added that the rape is becoming a weapon of choice in eastern DRC. "The sad reality is that incidents of rape have become so commonplace that they do not trigger our most urgent interventions," she said."
Guardian: Rape is often used as a weapon of war in Africa, with both men and women being victimized. Human rights activists are pushing to ensure that men are involved in discussions and policy making, in the hopes that education and access to victims rights services will lessen the violence. Women who have been raped are often accused of wanting it, but men who are raped are often accused of being gay, often in states where homosexuality is illegal.
"The incentive to use rape as a weapon of war in Africa would be less if more was done to ensure men were involved in discussions about gender equality, claims the director of a human rights project in Uganda. Research found that male rape has been a factor in various conflicts across Africa, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, although it is rarely reported by those who have been attacked because of the associated shame and stigma.
While women face the shame and stigma of attack, which can result in being ostracised from their communities, research on community perceptions of sexual violence suggest the shame was worse for a man because of the higher status men are afforded in their communities.
"'It is hard to imagine how the stigma could be worse, given the way in which women who have survived rape are often marginalised and even expelled from their families. Nonetheless, that is the perception and it seems to be closely linked to two things. Firstly, prevailing patriarchal gender norms continue to place men above women; the obvious result of being placed higher is that you have further to fall, both in your own eyes and in the eyes of those watching. Indeed, in many places for a man to be raped is effectively for him to be reduced to a woman, a status he has been brought up to believe is inferior.'"