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« The Economy & Security | Main | CTlab 2009 Symposium Series »

Plus ça change...

I read the news today, oh boy...

According to the Montréal paper Le Devoir, there is another emerging crisis in the Demoratic Republic of Congo, I mean, aside from the on-going civil war, the intervention of Rwanda, and so on.  And, really, this should be no surprise, but women are at high risk in the DRC.  According to Bernadette Ntumba, spokesperson for the Comission against Sexual Violence in Uvira Territory, after the soldiers and the police have had their way with the women of the region, civilians are too; engaging in rape and other forms of sexual violence against the women.  Indeed, Ntumba has termed this "une guerre qui finit dans le ventre des femmes."

This, of course, raises all sorts of issues, starting with the basic human rights of the women being violated, as well as the risk of HIV infection, the rates of which are escalating in the eastern portions of the DRC.  There are also the socio-cultural ramifications for the women, which include being rejected and cast out by their families, as well as the ostracisation of children born of rape. 

Last year, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that categorises sexual aggression during a conflict as a war crime.  This is a start.  But it's not enough.

I recall seeing a documentary some years ago about a woman in Rwanda, in Kigali, during the genocide.  After watching her husband hacked to death by the Interhamwe, a group which included one of their neighbours, she was essentially bound up in her bed and raped repeatedly and continually over the course of the next several weeks by the génocidaires.  She somehow recovered, more or less, and was working with other women of sexual violence in Rwanda during the genocide and after.  It was one of the most haunting documentaries I have ever seen.  The horror and terror of that woman's experience is something I think most of us cannot even begin to contemplate. 

And now, next door, in DRC, the situation is similar. Women are being raped over and over again by soldiers, policemen, ex-soldiers, and civilians.  And while it is somewhat of a relief to hear that there are programmes in Burundi, created with the co-operation of the Swiss, to offer counselling and support to these women, it's simply not enough.

The most vulnerable of all societies are victimised in moments of war and terror.  But to turn a blind eye to it does nothing but perpetuate it.  Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau once noted that a society is marked by how well it protects its most vulnerable.  As a global community, we're failing.

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Reader Comments (2)

Who or what is 'the global community', what defines its moral agency, and what is it supposed to do about this? Isn't this pretty much self-righteous chest-beating?

Feb 4, 2009 at 23:39 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas

I don't think it's self-righteous chest-beating when we're talking about the rape of hundreds, if not thousands, of women in conflict zones. As for the global community, we live in a period of globalisation, of economies, of cultures, of politics. We live in a world with a United Nations, and so on, so I think that's self-evident.

Feb 5, 2009 at 1:13 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Matthew Barlow

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