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Rape a war tactic in Central African Republic, says group Printer friendly page Print This
By Carley Petesch | AP - Axis of Logic Commentary
Friday, Oct 6, 2017

Editor's Commentary:
As grotesque as the details of this article might be, there is nothing new about this story. The 'penis' has been used as a weapon of war across most of equatorial Africa for far longer than this reporter imagines. It has been a tribal tactic utilized for centuries, since long before the Arabs or Western countries came to make these people into slaves.

The practice sees invaders raping women and girls - usually in the sight of others - leaving them 'unclean and untouchable' in the eyes of their groups, especially in the eyes of their husbands and fathers. This has the effect of destroying families and the fabric of these societies.

While it is quite likely the rapists feel empowered - and perhaps even a perverse pleasure - this is a tactic of war, done solely to demoralize the victimized village and render them too weak to fight back.

Those trying to help here need to focus more on changing societal attitudes across equatorial Africa - this problem will not be solved, or even improved, by merely catching and punishing a few bad guys. There is a significant body of education that must go into this - and that, above all, would require those African societies to reconsider some of their belief systems.

While it may not be the right of outsiders to tell these people they are behaving abominably, trying to help them see these things for themselves would appear to offer the only hope of success. If rape stopped being understood as a way of making women seem unclean or untouchable and destroying towns and villages, perhaps the penises could be put back in their pants where they belong.
- prh, ed.

Young girls and teens raped by Christian militia members. Mothers raped in front of their children by Muslim fighters. Women forced into sexual slavery by armed groups.

Rape and sexual slavery have been used as weapons of war by armed groups in Central African Republic for more than four years, with some of the attacks ordered or committed by commanders, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday.

More than 300 cases of rape and sexual slavery have been documented as carried out by members of armed groups in Central African Republic between early 2013 and mid-2017, the rights group said in their report. The sexual violence has come from members of the two main armed groups — the mostly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and Christian anti-Balaka militia, said the report.

“Armed groups are using rape in a brutal, calculated way to punish and terrorize women and girls,” said Hillary Margolis, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Every day, survivors live with the devastating aftermath of rape, and the knowledge that their attackers are walking free, perhaps holding positions of power, and to date facing no consequences whatsoever.”

The report comes as hundreds of people have been killed since May and more than 500,000 people have been displaced as largely sectarian violence moves into parts of Central African Republic that were spared the worst fighting that began in 2013.

The sexual violence may constitute crimes against humanity but no member of an armed group has been arrested for the assaults, said Human Rights Watch. Only 11 of 296 survivors interviewed by the international watchdog said they tried to “initiate a criminal investigation,” and those who had informed authorities faced mistreatment, the group said. Relatives were killed, beaten or threatened in the cases of three women who confronted members of the armed groups over the rapes, the rights group said.

The newly established Special Criminal Court for Central African Republic must open as soon as possible to “help break the country’s entrenched impunity, but success will require sustained financial, logistical, and political support,” Human Rights Watch said. The U.N. mission in Central African Republic should help with investigations, said the report which also urged international donors and the government to provide medical, legal, mental health and socio-economic services for survivors of sexual violence.

The stigma of rape means the problem is under-reported, the group said. This compounds the trauma already experienced by survivors: Many have been raped in front of their children or other family members, some said they were held as sexual slaves for nearly 18 months and were often raped repeatedly by multiple men.

Many of those interviewed also said they suffered from physical injury and illness, including the transmission of HIV from the rapes, and some reported having suicidal thoughts, said Human Rights Watch.

The group’s researcher Margolis called for help for the women, and an end to impunity for the perpetrators: “There needs to be a strong and urgent message in the Central African Republic that rape as a weapon of war is intolerable, that rapists will be punished, and that survivors will get the support they desperately need.”

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