Please read to the end and sign the petition on Change.org.
This story made me speechless. For those of you who know me, you know that’s a rarity. I cannot, will not, stay quiet on this issue until there is a public uprising akin to that we saw for Darfur that finally prompts international action. If you never read my blog posts, please read this one. And send it along.
More Than Numbers
A report was released last week by The American Journal of Public Health about the rates of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I knew it was coming thanks to an NPR article I read a few weeks ago. But the media treated it as if these numbers were news; yes, the actual numerical appearance of 2 million women is shocking and enraging but this. Is. Not. News. Unless you consider 14 years new.
The journal reports the following:
- Two million women have been raped in Congo in total
- 400,000 in one year (2006-2007)
- 1,100 every day
- 48 an hour
- One every minute
First, UN officials and others are criticizing the study and trying to find reasons why these numbers are inaccurate or inconsistent with other reports. The study was from 2006 to 2007, they say, so perhaps it doesn’t represent what is happening on the ground today? Or this from the UN’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence, Ms. Wallström: the definitions used in different studies of “sexual violence” and “intimate partner violence” may lead to disparities. And finally, that the sample of women itself was not reliable.
Yes, by all means, let’s discuss the reasons these numbers don’t represent reality; let’s compare this new study to old studies and demean the atrocity of the numbers while at the same time missing the entire point.
Second, the women of Congo are tired of western journalists and others interviewing them about their plight. They know they were raped; and they are sick of talking about it. Eve Ensler reported in her blog post for Ms. Magazine that the Congolese women are going to go on a “story strike” and stop telling about their rapes. I wholeheartedly support this.
Inaction on the part of the Obama Administration and the United Nations is truly incomprehensible. The UN on the surface tries to appear as though it cares – there are four relatively new Resolutions that address violence against women in conflict; we now have our own UN entity, UN Women; and, lest we forget, Ms. Wallström. But none of this matters because no action is taken.
In fact, this appears to be a more accurate portrayal of the UN’s position:
“Emphasizing the issue of sexual violence was a distraction from the wider problems of insecurity and violence that still beset the country … We don’t need figures like this to know sexual violence is a problem, there are many other types of violence and human rights issues that need to be tackled.”
This quote came from none other than Attinger Colijn, the head of the Sexual Violence Unit in the office of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General on the Rule of Law.
On this point I will quote Ms. Ensler: The UN “has never understood rape or sexual violence, never believed the consequences, always been afraid to talk about it openly with the appropriate outrage and intention needed to do something real and significant to make it stop.”
The same rings true for the American Government. Secretary of State Clinton visited Congo in 2009 in an attempt to bring more attention to the country. But nothing changes when her comfortable, air conditioned, and personally serviced jet takes off for home.
President Obama won’t even act on a bill he created. The 2006 Obama Law calls for a special envoy to the Great Lakes region and allows the U.S. to hold countries that are playing a part in Congo’s war accountable by withholding their international aid. He apparently got sidetracked by conflicts with a higher American interest.
One Congolese activist, Kambale Musavuli, stated: “[t]he suspicion many analysts share is that the U.S. is quick to act against its enemies while providing cover for its allies, even if its allies are clearly culpable for committing mass atrocities, crimes against humanity and possible genocide…”
The numbers don’t mean a damn thing to me. The fact is, the world, the United States, the United Nations, the Congolese government have allowed this to go on for over a decade. Statistics are numbing and only defeat the purpose by de-personalizing the issue. What kind of world do we live in where we allow this to continue at such an atrocious rate and expense? How can one call him or herself a political leader and not advocate for Congo? Because talking about it is uncomfortable? Is that what you would tell a Congolese rape victim if you were asked?
It is mind blowing, enraging, inexcusable, and cowardly.
The only way to get the American governmental machine to act is by public uprising. And this is what we need for Congo. Sign the petition and Demand Protection for Congo’s Women.