Rape in Congo

Via Retrospectacle: Congo seems to be undergoing a rape epidemic. Actually, “rape” is too weak a word: it’s not just violent men who have sex with unconsenting women – it’s psychopaths genitally torturing women because they can.

[Link] “Some of them have knives and other sharp objects inserted in them after they’ve been raped, while others have pistols shoved into their vaginas and the triggers pulled back,” said Dr. Denis Mukwege Mukengere, the lone physician at the hospital. “It’s a kind of barbarity that only savages are capable of.”

He added that “these perpetrators cannot be human beings.”

The alleged perpetrators are men in uniform, part of the Congolese army. These troops are a compilation of various militia groups that had been fighting each other for years until a truce was reached two years ago.

Anderson Cooper reports this in somewhat greater detail on his blog. The war was over three years ago, but now the military can commit atrocities against random defenseless people. In an earlier post, another blogger explained,

“This a pain worse than death,” says 28-year-old Henriette Nyota. She’s one of hundreds of women who’ve sought treatment at Panzi Hospital for a crime that continues to be committed here on an almost daily basis — multiple rapes by men in uniform with the intention, aid workers say, of destroying their child-bearing capabilities.

The story is as complicated as the Congo itself. The men in uniform are members of Congo’s recently integrated army. Some of the men are from one ethnic group and they’re raping and mutilating women from a different ethnic group in ways that can only be described as barbaric and medieval. After all, this is peacetime Congo. The civil war that killed more than three million people ended nearly three years ago. This isn’t supposed to be happening today.

The comments on both blog posts have a serious degree of politicking (“It’s all the USA’s/the UN’s/Congo’s/men’s/capitalism’s fault”), but no victim-blaming, which I suppose is a positive step. The most frustrating comments to read was on Anderson’s post, by someone who complained to the people who said the US should intervene, “If Bush intervened, you Democrats wouldn’t support it.” It’s bad, but it’s light-years away from “These women just had bad sex and regretted it.”

This is a major human rights crisis. The rapes are so violent that they often cause the victims’ genitals to rupture, sometimes permanently; they’re not just run-of-the-mill sexual assaults, of which several million occur every year. What is worse, many of these victims contract HIV, and even those who don’t are ostracized because they’re assumed to have been infected.

Like in Rwanda last decade, an international intervention is not a possibility, but a necessity. When the military is committing the atrocities, a good rule of thumb is that the government knows and doesn’t give a damn, or even actively encourages the acts. So outside intervention is needed (preferably not by the US, simply because everyone hates it and won’t accept an American intervention).

One Response to Rape in Congo

  1. […] Alon Levy gathered more information and links on the subject, and comes to the conclusion that outside intervention is needed: Like in Rwanda last decade, an international intervention is not a possibility, but a necessity. When the military is committing the atrocities, a good rule of thumb is that the government knows and doesn’t give a damn, or even actively encourages the acts. So outside intervention is needed. […]

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