No, Sexual Violence Is Not ‘Cultural’
Visitors of the eastern Congo hear plenty of horror stories — from forced cannibalism to the burning alive of the inhabitants of entire villages. But when Lisa Shannon of the “Run for Congo Women”-campaign heard statements about the security risks for returning refugees from Tanzania from an European aid worker woman, she was shocked however:
“Foreign militias are gone,” she said. “Just rapes and looting for the moment. No attacks.”
Stunned, I asked, “You don’t consider rape a security threat?”
“Rape here is so common,” she said. “It’s cultural.”
That was the first of many times I would hear mass rape in Congo dismissed as “cultural.”
Read more: No, Sexual Violence Is Not ‘Cultural’ by Lisa Shannon (New York Times)
People in the West too often find it easier to perceive rape as an accepted part of an unfamiliar culture rather than as a tool of war that they could help banish. This perception is widespread. Lisa Shannon works full-time for Congolese women, and finds herself devoting an inordinate amount of energy to defending Congolese men, arguing over statements like “Africa’s tribal rape rituals” or “the cultural roots of the sexual violence in Congo.”
To Margot Wallström, the U.N. secretary general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, such thinking resembles as the “lingering assumption that sexual violence is a tradition, rather than a tactic of choice.”
So what can we do to change such a mindset?
Margot Wallström said:
“Today rape is a crime against humanity and this is how it has to be followed up and we have set up tribunals and we do have successful examples, so these people are being accused and more and more women are coming forward. They are willing to bring their cases to the courts and the ICC is prosecuting.”
Read more: We can stop rape as a weapon of war (New Europe)
Any individual possibility to do something directly?
Eve Ensler of the V-DAY-campaign:
The world simply hadn’t gotten the necessary information. No world government, no leader, no body of the UN could turn its back, could sit and do nothing when they heard what I had heard, seen what I had seen. In 12 years, 6 million dead Congolese. 1.4 million displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn asunder.
V-DAY is offering a wide ranging of activities how to support the women in the eastern Congo. Check their DRC-side “Stop Raping our Greatest Resource”
Rabbi Shelley Kovar Becker of Temple Sholom in Floral Park, New York, whose congregation joined the transreligious campain of Congo Sabbath:
“It’s all connected”
Yes, we are! Connected to those countless Congolese women and girls under the permanent threat of rape. And we know:
Rape is not cultural!
It’s humiliating, it’s violating and often enough it’s letal.
Check our action- and donation-proposals in the right sidebar! >>