Tuesday, May 31, 2011

rape is power

A new study published by the American Journal of Public Health indicates that nearly 2 million women in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been raped. Many rapes are a part of military operations, designed to terrorize and control the population. Rates of domestic rape and rape by civilians, however, also appear to be growing rapidly in the DRC. Last year, a study commissioned by Oxfam showed that incidents of domestic rape grew 17-fold between 2004 and 2008.

Dr. Guylain Mvuama, said the main reason rural Congolese women are such frequent victims of rape is simple. It is part of the war. Mvuama said armed groups raid and loot villages, raping women, children and sometimes babies or men to control the people though terror. The doctor says , what better way is there to keep everyone subdued, than to rape every man’s mother, sister or wife?

Congolese Army Colonel Seraphin Mirindi said soldiers still rape as a direct result of extreme poverty. Between low pay, and corruption among commanders, soldiers take home between $17 and $55 a month. About 30 percent of soldiers desert their posts, he said, and since they receive hardy any salaries, they also are immune from punishment when they leave. Most deserters, he said, also take their gun with them when they go and with almost no money, soldiers and deserters are tempted to rape because they are isolated deep in the forest, and cannot afford wives or prostitutes.

Attorney and victim’s rights activist Gilbert Kasereka
said that while soldiers do rape because they are isolated, poor or as part of an attack, many rapes also occur in Congo for more unusual reasons. With the absence of regular, informed medical care, many people believe they can gain power or good health by raping the young. Kasereka said some people believe military prowess can be derived from raping a teenager or someone who is an ethnic minority, like Congolese Pygmies. Others believe the rape of a baby will cure AIDs.

For some activists, no programs to reduce rape numbers will be completely effective without ending the conflict for good. They say as long as much of Eastern Congo continues to be overrun with militias fighting each other and the government, and battling for control of what is believed to be $24 trillion worth of mineral wealth under the ground, sexual violence will continue to be a fact of life.

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