Yesterday on the Feminist Peace Network blog, I posted three stories about military misogyny, one about the murders of a a mother and her children in Gaza, one about the court-martial of a Marine for the rape of a 14 year old Okinawan girl, and one making the connection between the suspicious deaths of female soldiers in the U.S. military after they had been sexually assaulted and the (dis)honor killings of women in Iraq. Today brings yet another missive of misogynist murder in the name of patriarchy, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Stephen Lewis’ remarks at the 10th annual V-day Celebration in New Orleans, published in The Nation, offer a blistering critique of the international response to the violence against women that has been taking place in the DRC, which he labels “an act of criminal international misogyny.”
Lewis writes that largely because of the clamor raised by organizations such as V-Day, ”
“(T)he United Nations resolution that renewed the mandate for the UN Peacekeeping force in the Congo (MONUC, as it’s called) contained some of the strongest language condemning rape and sexual violence ever to appear in a Security Council resolution, and obliged MONUC, in no uncertain terms, to protect the women of the Congo. The resolution was passed at the end of December last year.
In January of this year, scarce (sic) one month later, there was an “Act of Engagement”–a so-called peace commitment signed amongst the warring parties. I use “so-called” advisedly because evidence of peace is hard to find. But that’s not the point: the point is much more revelatory and much more damning.”
And here’s the kicker:
“The peace commitment is a fairly lengthy document. Unbelievably, from beginning to end, the word “rape” never appears. Unbelievably, from beginning to end, the phrase “sexual violence” never appears. Unbelievably, “women” are mentioned but once, lumped in with children, the elderly and the disabled. It’s as if the organizers of the peace conference had never heard of the Security Council resolution.”
“But the most absurd dimension of this whole discreditable process is the fact that the peace talks were “facilitated”–they were effectively orchestrated–by MONUC, that is to say, by the United Nations. And perhaps most unconscionable of all, despite the existence for seven years of another Security Council Resolution 1325, calling for women to be active participants in all peace deliberations, there was no one at that peace table directly representing the women, the more than 200,000 women, whose lives and anatomies were torn to shreds by the very war that the peace talks were meant to resolve.
Lewis goes on to make an impassioned plea to the Secretary -General of the UN to take a pro-active leadership role in ensuring the protection of women and the application of international law in the Congo.
What is described in this call for action is sickeningly similar to the situation in Kenya where with much fanfare former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered peace talks that excluded the substantive participation of women or the consideration of the rapes of women in post election violence as an issue that needed to be addressed. The exclusion was so blatant that 150 women under the auspices of the Coalition of Women for Peace and Justice in Kenya met separately to offer their own analysis of what needed to be done to stop the carnage. The following day they organized the encirclement of the hotel where the negotiations took place by “Women in White.”
UNSC 1325 is not the only tool for ending violence against women. There is also the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Criminal Court and the Geneva Conventions to name a few. But they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on unless they are utilized.
While voices like Lewis’ are most welcome, the reality is male-dominated governments and organizations they run are not going to stop this misogynistic carnage, it is the women that must speak out and take action. Women like Ensler, women like Ann Wright writing about the deaths of women in the U.S. military, women like the Women in White in Kenya, Houzan Mahmoud of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq describing the murders of women in Basra.
As we speak out, we need to insist on seeing all of these incidents of misogynistic violence as part of the whole picture, not as isolated occurrences. The circumstances may differ, but the reality is that the root cause of patriarchal control and domination is the same. If we insist on making this connection, then we gain the strength of standing on common ground with our sisters everywhere in ending the patriarchal misogyny that is destroying our lives.