War waged on women ’ s bod­ies

Rape is a pop­u­lar weapon dur­ing con­flict, writes

Sunday World - - Opinion - Ab­dul Mi­lazi

NO po­lit­i­cal ideal is worth rap­ing a 12-year-old girl for.

As Africans and as hu­mans we should lend our col­lec­tive voice to the Bring Back Our Girls cam­paign, and say enough is enough.

It’s been 41 days since more than 200 teenage girls were kid­napped. They are be­lieved to be held hostage in the forests of Kaduna by the Is­lamist mil­i­tant group known as Boko Haram.

Kaduna, part of Nigeria’s “Mid­dle Belt”, has long been a hot spot of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence.

In 2011, thou­sands of people were killed in post-elec­tion vi­o­lence.

Kaduna is where the Chris­tian south meets the Mus­lim north, and the two have never found com­mon ground for co­ex­is­tence.

Boko Haram has killed thou­sands of civil­ians, in­clud­ing chil­dren as young as eight, in the north­east.

The kid­nap­ping of the girls is be­lieved to be part of a trou­bling war trend where rape is seen as the most ef­fec­tive weapon.

Who can for­get Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina where more than 20 000 Mus­lim girls and women were sin­gled out for rape, im­pris­on­ment, tor­ture and ex­e­cu­tion, in that re­gion’s eth­nic cleans­ing war?

Rape has also been used as a weapon in con­flicts in Rwanda, So­ma­lia, Liberia, Uganda, Cyprus, Croa­tia, Bangladesh, Haiti and Cam­bo­dia.

Psy­chol­o­gists around the world have iden­ti­fied sys­tem­atic rape as a pop­u­lar weapon of war.

In World War II, women were ab­ducted and made sex slaves for oc­cu­py­ing forces.

Ac­cord­ing to the Global Jus­tice Cen­tre, rape is the most pow­er­ful and cost-ef­fec­tive way to de­stroy the lives of the “en­emy ”, and is be­ing used more than any other pro­hib­ited weapon of war, in­clud­ing star­va­tion and the use of her­bi­cides, bi­o­log­i­cal or chemical weapons, dum­dum bul­lets, white phos­pho­rus or blind­ing lasers.

“If there is one set of fun­da­men­tal func­tions of rape, civil­ian or mar­tial, it is to dis­play, com­mu­ni­cate, and pro­duce or main­tain dom­i­nance, which is both en­joyed for its own sake and used for such ul­te­rior ends as ex­ploita­tion, ex­pul­sion, dis­per­sion, and mur­der,” Clau­dia Card wrote in an es­say in a spe­cial edi­tion of the fem­i­nist jour­nal Hy­pa­tia on women and vi­o­lence in Novem­ber 1996.

“Acts of forcible rape, like other in­stances of tor­ture, com­mu­ni­cate dom­i­nance by re­mov­ing our con­trol over what en­ters or im­pinges on our bod­ies. Rape is a cross-cul­tural lan­guage of male dom­i­na­tion (that is, dom­i­na­tion by males; it can also be dom­i­na­tion of males). This is its sym­bolic so­cial mean­ing.”

The other side of geno­cide

She says there is more than one way to com­mit geno­cide. One way is mass mur­der. An­other is to de­stroy a group’s iden­tity by dec­i­mat­ing cul­tural and so­cial bonds.

“Mar­tial rape does both. Many women and girls are killed when rapists are fin­ished with them. If sur­vivors be­come preg­nant or are known to be rape sur­vivors, cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal, and na­tional unity may be thrown into chaos.”

She says these have been among the ap­par­ently in­tended pur­poses of the mass rapes of women in Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina and in Rwanda, of Viet­namese women by Amer­i­can soldiers, of Ben­gali women by Pak­istani soldiers in 1971, and of Na­tive Amer­i­can women by Bri­tish soldiers.

Reuters re­ports that a women’s group says the mil­i­tary in Myan­mar (Burma) is still us­ing rape as a weapon of war, with more than 100 women and girls raped by the army since a 2010 elec­tion.

The Jan­uary 2013 Hu­man Rights Watch re­port on Myan­mar said sex­ual vi­o­lence by the mil­i­tary re­mained a se­ri­ous prob­lem.

Ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional law, us­ing rape as a weapon of war is a war crime, but who will pros­e­cute the rebel groups and rogue gov­ern­ments still com­mit­ting these heinous acts?

The Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo has been called the rape cap­i­tal of the world.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN, more than 200 000 people have been raped in that coun­try since 1998.

The UN and the AU have signed an agree­ment on the preven­tion of and re­sponse to con­flict-re­lated sex­ual vi­o­lence in Africa. The prob­lem with agree­ments is that they demon­strate good in­ten­tions, but rarely trans­late into ac­tion.

We need a global task force that will hunt and ex­ter­mi­nate this scourge.

If war rapes have been go­ing on since World War II, we should have found a so­lu­tion or de­ter­rent by now

– that is, if the global po­lit­i­cal will to do so is gen­uine.

7 & ( 1 + - ) 0 9 * 0 ) . . 7 ( 233 *$ . +

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