Monday, October 08, 2007

Rape Epidemic in Congo yet no one knows why

With last year's historic election in Congo it was believed that the chaos and violence would be over, as the country would hopefully unify under a nationally elected government. Unfortunately, the election proved to be much less beneficial for the nation as numerous bands of rebel groups still roam free and control large portions of land. What is most frightening about this sudden shift back into chaos is that women are being systematically targeted by both rebels and Congolese government troops as rape victims and are also being kidnapped for ransom.
According to the New York Times article everyday 10 new rape victims show up at one particular hospital, and each of these women and girls have been brutally attacked so that their reproductive and digestive systems have been damaged almost beyond repair, with such things as bayonets and pieces of wood. One doctor reports he performs on average 6 rape- related surgeries a day, and the 350 bed hospital is not even large enough to hold to constant stream of victims so many women are forced to leave before they are completely healed.
Not only are the wounds shown on one's body but these women ranging in age from 3 - 75 years old are full of emotional scars. Because of the vast age range many are not even old enough to understand what has happened to them while others can't even fathom where or how to begin their lives again. Many victims not only suffered through their rape but also had to bear having their husbands forced to watch it happen and then killed. In the case of others who's husbands are alive, they have been divorced because their husbands claim they are now diseased.
This rape epidemic has reached proportions never seen before in any context. The number of victims exceeds those reached in Rwanda during the genocide. What is even more disturbing, however, is that no one seems to know why this attack on women is taking place. While most aid workers insist that rape is not a product of Congolese culture many believe point its origins to the 1990s when many Hutu militiamen fled to Congo following the Rwandan genocide. And even though the Congolese military forces also have raped many women the most brutal attacks are believed to be done by the Hutu militias. Another line of thinking is that it keeps escalating because no one is being punished. But with more UN peacekeeping forces than anywhere else is the world how does this keep happening even despite efforts to provide more protection to women? How can we prevent this from continuing? Will the Hutus ever stop targeting others or are they too far gone from of decades of killing and torturing?


prsjr said...

How do we, as citizens of a developed state, come to terms with atrocities like this? How do we prevent things like this from happening? Rape is invariably a foul, malicious, hateful and sadistic act that only the sickest of humans can even consider. But as far as international crises are concerned, rape is not as evil an act as murder or genocide. If the US were to prioritize all of the HR problems we have investigated this semester we would be left with a myriad of hate crimes ranging from Jena 6 to Darfur. How do we begin to prioritize these crises as a nation and act in a way that will prevent them from happening again?

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure I fully agree with that comment. Who is to say that one human rights abuse is more important, or more evil, than another? If there is genocide in a country and human beings are tortured and killed, there is the tragic possibility that eventually no one will survive. On the other hand, if women are being raped and brutalized but not killed they are still around for it to happen again. I don't know which situation is worse, and I don't know that the US can prioritize one over the other. I don't even know if it is the responsibility of the US to be prioritizing in the first place. Where are all the other developed nations that were mentioned- what are they doing to help?

Libby said...

I agree with Ashley's statement that distinguishing the importance of different human rights is very difficult and while mass genocide is clearly a very grave and brutal violation of these rights, mass rape is unacceptable and potentially just as atrocious. If the UN had the same mindset that these unexplained cases of rape were not as important as other issues, who knows what other human rights violations the constant rape cases could escalate into. The issue cannot be neglected, which the UN has acknowledged by setting up the largest peace keeping force in Congo. However, having peace keeping troops make their presence known and patrolling at night does not seem to be enough. More and more women are violated every day and no one can find the reason why. This is not a case of cultural relativism where other nations should respect their practice, this is disgusting and unacceptable and both the UN and the Congolese government should receive constant pressure to enforce peace and try to stop this awful problem.

jolz said...

As a woman its is almost unbearable to read these stories of violent rape against innocent women. It angers me to think that the women in the Congo have been reduced to nothing more than outlets by which the men can release the pent up frustrations and anger of the ongoing violence. Why aren't more states stepping in to control this surge of rape you ask? Maybe because these male dominated states do not see protection of women's rights as high on their list of priorities and besides this rape epidemic is only affecting women anyway right. Wrong! This epidemic affects everyone who is a relative of, friend of or associated with a woman. Every son, daughter, husband and sister of a rape victim is indirectly affected by the malicious act which she had to endure. This epidemic is in fact affecting society in general. I agree with Libby, enough is not being done because more and more reports of vicious rapes are still coming in.

jurisprudence said...

I personally believe that rape is equal to murder. Because with murder at the end you die; with rape the same thing occurs. At the end the person you once were has died, and many rape victims as expressed in the post feel like they have to start again. Furthermore, rape victims don't get the gift of death they have to live with their pain forever. . Also once raped its hard to ever feel safe again or comfortable in your own skin, because some has seized control of your body and brutalized it. I think rape is hard for men to understand because they usually can't imagine some one else inside them. But the reason why rape is so horrible is because its an invasion of the body, which is most sacred. Rape makes a victim feel not like a person at all since they have control over nothing. A rapist claims one's whole self from the inside out.

As a reminder helping other people is not just up to nations but up to people. people comprise nations. If a woman was being raped right in front of your eyes, what would you do, help or what for a foreign nation? These women are getting raped in front of our eyes since the Internet has brought the issue straight to our laptops. So now that you know about it what are you going to do?

Kat said...

This makes me physically sick to my stomach. I can't believe such horrific things are happening to defenseless, innocent women everyday. And the fact that this is commonplace? Unbelievable. The scars rape victims hold both physically and emotionally are so severe, and in a culture like the Congo, women must suppress talking about their feelings. Rape is just as bad as murder and genocide. Women are mutilated and hurt...and must live with it for the rest of their lives. Many may want to die because of it. It can bring dishonor to families, it can be a way to shun women who have been raped. To know that groups of rebels are walking around without being stopped from doing these atrocities...well, I just wish I could take a plane to the Congo right now and show them a thing or two.