Thursday, March 06, 2008

Meanwhile, in Congo

Via Rorschach, this piece of news about gang rape as a weapon of warfare:

IT TOOK five operations to repair Lumo's internal injuries after she was gang-raped and left for dead by Hutu militia in eastern Congo, in what women's rights activists call a new form of terrorism, the use of rape as a weapon of war.

Lumo's story, told in an award-winning documentary about survivors of sexual violence in Congo, highlights the women's continuing plight. "The main issue is terrorism. Rape is used as terrorism, as an instrument of war, to empty whole communities of people, to destroy the economies," said Lyn Lusi, program manager for Heal Africa, whose organisation works with the affected women in the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern region.

Mrs Lusi, who is in Australia to promote grassroots advocacy for Congo, welcomed last week's United Nations announcement of a global campaign to combat violence against women and girls, saying raising awareness of the problem was an essential step.

She said a recent survey of 600 young women with HIV in Goma, eastern Congo, found that for a large number their first sexual experience was not consensual.

Gang rape is not a new weapon, though. What may be new is that people now talk about it and refuse to regard the victims as dirty, disgraced and somehow responsible for their own victimization.

The next step is to let women be part of the peace talks, given that they are participants in the wars, whether they wish it or not.