Jan 292008

When you read the typical reports in the mainstream media about the violence that is occurring in Kenya, there is rarely any mention that much of it is being specifically targeted at women and children. However, if the 4th estate would do their damned homework, and read the Kenyan press, they would hear the specifics of these horrors. Or perhaps they do and just don’t think it is worthy of mention.

Fortunately, organizations like All Africa are making sure that reports  like this one  from The Nation, a Kenyan publication, are seen by a wider audience:

“(I)t is emerging that sexual violence targeting women and girls is rampant in the camps. It follows that the recovery of women and children already traumatised could be fundamentally compromised.”

“(S)exual violence is taking place inside the camps where circumstances of the moment have thrown strangers-men, women and children-into living communally in school halls and tents. In some areas, women and children are living in makeshift structures that are not secure enough to keep out would-be sex predators. Their safety is further compromised by the fact that most of the informal camps lack lighting, and many of the attacks are carried out in the dark.

At another level, the deprivation that informs the lives of the IDPs has bred a situation where desperately impoverished young girls are sexually exploited in order to get some food or clothing.”

There is nothing surprising about these reports being invisibilized by the media outside of Kenya.  Perhaps there are those of you who ask, yes but have these reports been verified, do we know they are true?  What is true is that violence against women has always been a part of armed conflict.  What would be surprising is if men somehow found a way to destroy each other without leaving women and children in their wake.  What we can know with a certainty is that as long as the Atrocities against women and children aren’t considered to be a part of the ‘important’ news, the heinous acts will continue, as they are in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“Rape and other forms of sexual violence remain prevalent in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite the cessation of military activities and the disarmament of militias in the region, according to aid workers. Before, this was mainly attributed to men in uniform, but now civilians comprise a significant number of the perpetrators.

“The rapists roam the streets; [local] customs allow them to pay a goat [as recompense to the victim’s family] without serving prison terms. Even worse, some of the rapists are HIV-positive or old and rape girls of around 12 and 13 thinking they will be cured [of illness] or live longer,” Marie Pacuryema, the coordinator of a local NGO, Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégré en Ituri, said.

A November 2007 report released by Médecins Sans Frontières-Suisse said that since 2003, between 30 and 500 patients reported sexual assaults each month in Ituri. At least 2,708 people were also raped in an 18-month period, with 7,000 more having been raped in a four-year period, according to the report.  “

“”It does not stop; we think that the same rapists of yesterday who were released from the armed groups into the community are still carrying on with the habit,” Francine Mangaza, an officer with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in the district of Ituri, said.”

One of the truly great gifts of the digital age is that these stories can no longer be hidden.  We can no longer say that we did not know.

 January 29, 2008  Posted by on January 29, 2008

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