Let's end terror of rape in war zones

Let's end terror of rape in war zones.
Let's end terror of rape in war zones.
Image: 123RF Stock Image/ lculig

In global war zones, rape is frequently used as a weapon of war. Soldiers rape girls and women in front of parents and husbands to force the local population into submission. Girls and women tragically do become pregnant after these rapes.

Rape as a weapon of war has been documented in Bangladesh, Colombia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Liberia, among other places. Rape is a tool of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Rape was first properly recognised as a weapon of war after the conflict in Bosnia. Though all sides were guilty, most victims were Bosnian Muslims assaulted by Serbs. Muslim women were herded into "rape camps" where they were raped repeatedly. After the war, some perpetrators said that they had been ordered to rape - either to ensure that non-Serbs would flee certain areas, or to impregnate women so that they bore Serb children.

In the Sudanese region of Darfur, rape and other forms of sexual violence have also been a brutally effective way to terrorise and control civilians. Women are raped in and around the refugee camps that litter the region, mostly when they leave the camps to collect firewood, water and food.

Women and girls suffer disproportionately from high rates of violence and extreme poverty during times of conflict. Nowhere is this truer than in the DRC. While peace has been restored in parts of the country, women and girls still suffer from gender-based violence. The use of rape and sexual assault to terrorise their communities continues.

An estimated 100000-250000 women were raped during the three months of genocide in Rwanda in 1994. And, in recent times, rape is being used as a weapon of war and ethnic cleansing in the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

Yunus Soomar

Durban North

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