Women Bear The Brunt Of War
By Amnesty International
Raped, treated as the sexual 'booty' of war or slain by indiscriminate bombings, women are too often the first victims of conflict, Amnesty International charged Wednesday in a report demanding legal redress.
The London-based human rights group called for action by the International Criminal Court to halt oppressive violence against women.
"Patterns of violence against women in conflict do not arise 'naturally' but are ordered, condoned or tolerated as a result of political calculations,"
its secretary general Irene Khan said in introducing the 120-page report on women in war.
Not only are women "considered as the legitimate booty of victorious army,"
the report said, but "the use of rape as a weapon of war is perhaps the most notorious and brutal way in which conflicts impact on women."
"Women's bodies, their sexuality and reproductive capacity are often used as a literal battleground," it said.
Khan, the first women, the first Asian and the first Muslim to head Amnesty International, told AFP in an interview that "it's quite interesting to see that women rights have been used as justification for military intervention, in the cases of both Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites)."
But, she added, "on the ground the situation changes very little in favor of women ... In the case of Afghanistan we have seen no improvement.
"Warlords are occupying parts of the territory and see women as commodities for trading, to settle land dispute. Abductions and forced marriages are about as bad, if not worse, than at any time in Afghan history.
"Warlords are not being pulled out, they're not being prosecuted, they're not being investigated for the crimes that are openly committing."
Even where women are not deliberately targetted, they are the main victims o f so-called collatoral damage, whether caused by "precision" bombing or landmines, the report said.
"In Iraq in 2003, US forces reportedly used more than 10,500 cluster munitions containing at least 1.8 million bomblets. An average failure rate of five percent would mean that about 90,000 unexploded munitions are now on Iraqi soil."
The report urged the International Criminal Court to "pick up and prosecute one or two high-profile cases because that will send the message that violence against women cannot continue in such an impunity, which is the norm today."
The court, headquartered in The Hague (news - web sites), began operating in July 2002 and is mandated to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Kahn acknowledged the way ahead would be tough, but said she hoped the report would generate pressure for change.
Women and children make up 80 percent of the world's 40 million refugees, but they have no voice, and injustices go unpunished," she added.
"If you take the example of the Korean women, the comfort women in Japan, who were used as sex slaves during the second world war, even now they're still battling for the recognition of their case," Khan said.
The report detailed widespread rape in conflicts around the world, including the Darfur region of Sudan, Colombia, Nepal, Chechnya (news - web sites), India and, earlier this year, in the tiny Pacific territory of the Solomon Islands.
Tens of thousands of women and young girls were raped during the conflicts sweeping the Democratic Republic of Congo (news - web sites).
"Ten years on from the genocide in Rwanda, where violence against women was a central element of the strategy to eliminate a particular ethnic group, little or nothing seems to have been learned about how to prevent such horrors," the report said.
Source: Amnesty International London Tue Dec 7, 7:09 PM ET
Women's Lives And Bodies -- Unrecognized Casualties Of War
Women and girls bear the brunt of armed conflicts fought today both as direct targets and as unrecognized "collateral damage". Lives Blown Apart a new report in Amnesty International's campaign, Stop Violence Against Women, calls for global action to challenge both the violence and the failure of governments to prevent it.
"Patterns of violence against women in conflict do not arise 'naturally' but are ordered, condoned or tolerated. They persist because those who commit them know they can get away with impunity," said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The report lays out the global picture revealing a systematic pattern of abuse repeating itself in conflicts all over the world from Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, Chechnya, Nepal to Afghanistan and in 30 other ongoing conflicts.
Despite promises, treaties and legal mechanisms, governments have failed to protect women and girls from violence.
"Women and girls are not just killed, they are raped, sexually attacked, mutilated and humiliated. Custom, culture and religion have built an image of women as bearing the 'honour' of their communities. Disparaging a woman's sexuality and destroying her physical integrity have become a means by which to terrorize, demean and 'defeat' entire communities, as well as to punish, intimidate and humiliate women," said Irene Khan.
On top of this it is women and children who are forced to flee their homes.
It is women who care for the sick and injured and it is women who have to collect food and water - tasks and situations that put them at further risk of abuse.
Rape survivors suffer not only from psychological and emotional trauma, from the impact on their health and the risk of HIV/Aids, but also from the fear that they will be ostracized by their families and communities if they are publicly identified as a rape victim.
"In the community, they made such fun of me that I had to leave the village and live in the forest.[..] I am hungry, I have no clothes and no soap. I donít have any money to pay for medical care. It would be better if I died with the baby in my womb," Sanguina was raped twice during the DRC conflict.
Justice is key to stopping the violence and when the International Criminal Court begins its first prosecutions, it will open a new avenue for women to access justice. Justice is not just a technical tool but has a concrete impact. It confirms that rape and sexual violence are crimes, restores dignity and feelings of self worth and it delivers redress. Justice is also a vital step to prevent the crimes from happening again, it sends a signal to those who would commit violence that it will not be tolerated.
"It is absolutely pivotal that one of the first prosecutions by the ICC next year includes crimes of violence against women. A strong global message must be sent that violence against women will be vigorously pursued. Firm action by the ICC will help shame states into promoting action through their national courts," said Irene Khan.
However the ICC cannot deliver justice without political support. The success of an ICC prosecution will also depend on the cooperation it receives from governments on practical issues, including the assistance it receives during investigations, the sharing of evidence and the protection of witnesses who may be at risk.
"Women's lives and their bodies have been the unacknowledged casualties of war for too long. Tools to tackle the violence exist, but justice for women victims of war will only be delivered if world leaders are ready to do more than just make pious statements condemning rape and sexual violence.They must adopt an agenda for action, centred on the ICC and complemented by universal jurisdiction through national systems," said Irene Khan.
The report highlights how the fight for women's security and human rights is jeopardised by increasing militarization and the introduction of new security agendas to fight global terrorism. US led security doctrines have stretched the concept of "war" into areas formerly considered as law enforcement promoting the notion that human rights can be curtailed in the name of security.
Despite the impact of conflict on women and girls they are still excluded from the peace negotiation tables. Often it is the men who initiated the war who take decisions on how peace should be built and introduced.
"Women have a crucial role to play in re-building secure communities and countries. All over the world women are challenging violence, discrimination and silence. Without women's active involvement in any peace process there can be no security, no justice and no peace," said Irene Khan.
Amnesty International is presenting an agenda for action at global, regional, national and local level:
The ICC must be allowed to act effectively and deliver justice to women and girls. If the Security Council is serious about ending violence against women in conflict it can refer cases to the ICC, when governments fail to do so.
Governments must give their political support to enable the ICC to work effectively. This includes ratifying the Rome Statute of the ICC, implementing the Rome Statute into national law so that perpetrators can be prosecuted for these crimes in national systems, sharing information with the ICC, and providing protection for victims and witnesses.
Governments must publicly condemn violence against women and girls in any circumstances, issuing clear warnings or instructions to their forces that violence against women will not be tolerated.
The international community: all governments, the UN and relevant international bodies must ensure that women play a key role in the design and implementation of all peace-building initiatives.
All parties and the UN must provide immediate and effective assistance to survivors of violence against women, including emergency health care programs and rehabilitation.
"We have to mobilize global outrage - to challenge the violence, support those women who suffer and put pressure on those who can bring about change.
It is the power of individual women and men that drives change," said Irene Khan.
The report is part of Amnesty International's global campaign Stop Violence Against Women. For more information please visit our web site:
Source: Amnesty International 12/08/2004
Babies Conceived of Rapes by Janjaweed Militiamen Face Daunting Futures
BY SUDARSAN RAGHAVAN
ABU SHOUK, Sudan - (KRT) - There were no smiles, no blessings at the birth of the light-skinned girl with the ebony eyes and curly black hair. Not a glimpse of joy. For a family still bleeding from war, the baby was like salt on their wounds.
"My father didn't speak for the entire day," recalled her mother, Suad Abdalaziz, 28, her voice cracking and her face streaming with tears. "He was not angry at me. He was angry at the janjaweed and the government for giving me this baby."
In the troubled province of Darfur, pro-government Arab militias called the janjaweed have raped countless black African women in a campaign that the Bush administration has called genocide.
Now, their babies are emerging across this tableau of human suffering. They are outcasts in a war-scarred society where rape is a source of shame and a father's identity defines the child.
Relatives shun them, seeing in their tiny faces the atrocities committed by their enemies. Mothers struggle to accept them, torn between loyalty to their tribe and their instincts to love and care. Many are resigned to a life of isolation, where marriage is unlikely and where their children will forever carry a stigma.
"These are the babies of the janjaweed," said Hassan Abdallah Bakhur, a tribal elder from the town of Tawilla, 40 miles south of here. "I don't know how we can solve this problem. They and their mothers face a bad future."
Seated in her cool tent, her feet nervously shifting in the sand, Suad cradled the infant she had borne three days earlier. She was still thinking of a name worthy of the child. She wiped her puffy, almond-shaped eyes and continued. "I didn't show her to the people," she said. "I was ashamed."
Suad's ordeal began in February, when the janjaweed raided Tawilla, burning huts, pillaging livestock, and raping hundreds of black African women, most of them members of the Zaghawa tribe. Three militiamen on horseback chased her down as she ran through the scabby terrain and dragged her into a hut. They ripped off her top and tore it apart, stuffing one piece in her mouth and wrapping the other over her eyes.
Then, the lighter-skinned Arabs spat out the words that haunt her today: "We want to change the color of your children."
Suad's story is hardly unique. Many of the raped women of Tawilla filtered to the refugee camp of Abu Shouk, where it's not easy to keep something like rape a secret.
When Medina Muhammed, 18, saw her body changing, she told her father about that chaotic day in Tawilla when five Arab militiamen raped her.
"This child of the janjaweed, I don't want to see it,"
Medina recalled him saying. "I'll remember these people. I can't accept this child."
Then he left six months ago to join his two wives and their children. Medina hasn't seen him since.
Nor did any of her relatives visit her in the hospital when the baby arrived several weeks early and she fell ill. And when the traditional naming ceremony was to be held seven days after birth, no one came to celebrate a fatherless baby born of hate.
Medina named her child alone: Menazel. In the Quran, Islam's holy book, the word "Houses of the Stars."
Medina picked it "because the janjaweed burned our houses."
For a surname - usually the name of the father - she selected Juma. It means Friday, the day Medina was raped.
Medina's mother, Mariam Adam, insisted the child would be treated like any other. But she acknowledged she hasn't learned the child's name: "I forgot to ask,"
She's more concerned about whether her daughter will find a husband.
"It will be difficult to marry off Medina," said Adam.
"Only an old man may be willing to marry her because she has a child from the janjaweed."
And if she doesn't marry? "She may become a prostitute," Adam said.
Muhammed Adam, Medina's silver-haired uncle, expressed an even greater fear: "Or she may commit suicide. She feels all the people around her dislike her."
As for the children borne of janjaweed rape, Muhammed has other fears: "These children could become janjaweed later and attack us again."
Still, Menazel's life seems much better than tiny Ismail's.
Ismail's mother, Salima Muhammed, 18, hasn't visited him in two weeks in the clinic where he now lives.
Ismail survives because Bakhur, the tribal elder, has ordered other women to breastfeed him.
"I don't dislike my baby," said Salima, round-faced with a smile that appears tattooed to her face. "I want him back"
But aid workers and tribal elders paint a different picture. They say Salima is mad. She watched the janjaweed kill her husband. Then they gang-raped her.
Now, Ismail torments her. She has hit him and tried to drown him. So Bakhur ordered that Ismail be taken from her.
"She refused the child because he was from the janjaweed," said Zainab Hassan, 42, a woman assigned to breastfeed Ismail.
Three days after giving birth, Suad acknowledges that her janjaweed baby has upended her life. Her career as a teacher is over "because all the people will hear this child is fatherless and will talk." Her prospects for marriage are slim "because I have lost my honor."
She feels bitter, alone, and suffers from a foreboding she has never felt before. "This baby destroyed my future," she said.
Yet Suad is also a mother. "This is my baby, and the baby doesn't know anything that happened. So I must love her," she said.
And then she names the infant: Ihsan.
It means Goodness and Perfection.
Posted on Thu, Nov. 25, 2004 © 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.