by Soraya Chemaly. Originally posted at Fem2pt0.
I remember reading these words at a Women to Women International meeting a few years ago. They were spoken by Patrick Cammaert, the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2008, who said “It is probably more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict.” This exact equation has been demonstrated and repeated hundreds of times since.
How can that be? War evokes images of young men, literally led to slaughter. For most people in our world, exposure to violent conflict comes in the form of occasional newspaper pages filled with pictures of young men and a few women who die as soldiers fighting wars in other countries. We don’t see pictures of women who die as civilians or those who are raped violently and repeatedly in conflict as a war strategy. We tend to think of children and women as collaterally damaged during war, when in truth, all over the world, they are fully, bodily engaged in conflict involving the regular use of men’s bodies as weapons against them.
In the span of one year, between 2006 and 2007, more than 400,000 women were raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is 48 women raped every hour. In Columbia, between 2001 and 2009, a period of violent insurgency, 500,000 women reported being raped.
It is exceedingly difficult to obtain accurate data regarding the incidence of rape even in daily, civilian life. Obtaining it during times of war and in cultures where the stigma attached to being a rape victim results in ostracization or death, it is exponentially more difficult. On thing is certain however, rape is when men weaponize themselves and conflict is the time when rape as a mass phenomenon of power and control is most obvious and widespread.
Can rape during conflict be stopped? This is the goal of The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, a collaboration between more than 400 Nobel Peace Laureates, international advocacy organizations, and groups working in conflict zones that launched this week. Read more