STOP…Violence against women continues…STOP

This post is like a telegram and because that is what the urgency is. If you have a sister, or a mother or a girlfriend, a spouse, a daughter or you have been held dear by a woman, you need to keep reading this post on the kind of violence against women that has been going on, in light of International Womens Day and Women’s History month.

I give credit where I can, since these were emailed to me.(Emphasis is mine and my quotes are in ITALICS)

NOTE: The references in some of the quotes I have made may be quite stark to the casual reader.

1)The Violence Continues in IDP camps (4 March PLUS News)

“Since the violence started we are seeing similar numbers of cases to what we would normally see over the same timespan, but there is one major difference: 90 percent of the cases we are seeing since the political crisis began are gang rapes,” said Lucy Kiama, head of the Gender Violence Recovery Centre at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital. “The gangs range from groups of two men to as many as eleven.”

Women are travelling form all over the country to seek treatment at the NWH, many arriving too late to receive prophylaxis for HIV/AIDS which prevents HIV infection following exposure. And why women? “…these are crimes of opportunity…” and “…the spike in gang rape in a situation as violent as Kenya was at the beginning of the year was not unusual.”

My emphasis here is to highlight the fact that there is a bad precedent of violence against women in times of conflict that goes unchecked, and this lack of media exposure et al, is the primary cause of a lot of the continued anguish of these women.

The lure of assistance

“An interagency assessment of GBV reported that in the early stages of camp development at the Nakuru showgrounds (an agricultural exhibition facility), community members reportedly took girls from the camp to serve as domestic help, likely increasing their risk of sexual exploitation.

The same report said women had stated that men in the community around the camp set up on the showgrounds at Eldoret, another town in Rift Valley Province, were inducing girls to leave the camp with the promise that they would “eat something sweet”.

“In some cases, team leaders responsible for handing out food have been making girls give them sex in exchange for the food they are actually entitled to,” Kiama said. “So even when the sex is consensual, it is often survival sex – the girls and women don’t feel they have a choice.”

And we say there is peace, and an agreement. Help a gal understand where these arrangements of national peace help our women and girls

So there is a precedent.

On to the article that had me livid when I read it.

*Writer/photographer Ann Jones is working as a volunteer with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) on a special project for their Gender-Based Violence unit called “A Global Crescendo: Women’s Voices from Conflict Zones.” Her blogs about the project can be found here http://www.theirc.org This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute.

This article from Pambazuka News Digest Vol 93 issue1 written by Ann Jones, looks at the various ways in which the war against women continues long after the peace deals have been signed. It had me thinking over and over, just what this peace means. Does it mean that we keep the stories even quieter about Africa? about our women and girls? A few things I did not know stand out.

Ann Jones has been working with women in three neighboring countries, all recently torn apart by civil wars: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire. While we in Kenya and of course friends of Kenya all over the world are not at the point of civil war, we share many of the same characteristics.
She says, “When any conflict of this sort officially ends, violence against women continues and often actually grows worse. Not surprisingly, murderous aggression cannot be turned off overnight. When men stop attacking one another, women continue to be convenient targets. Here in West Africa, as in so many other places where rape was used as a weapon of war, it has become a habit carried seamlessly into the “post-conflict” era. Where normal structures of law enforcement and justice have been disabled by war,male soldiers and civilians alike can prey upon women and children with impunity. And they do.”

I was indignant . Why should these women not report these perpetrators?

AJ adds ” Human Rights Watch points out that “cases of sexual abuse may be
significantly underreported,” because women fear “the possibility of reprisals by perpetrators… ostracism by families and communities,and cultural taboos.”

So every time a woman is attacked, she is blamed and then she is ostracized and, if she decides to keep the child product of her attack, she is labeled as a loose woman.

Physical emblems of the post-conflict on a woman in these areas; Ann cites the Amnesty International report on post-conflict in West Africa:”The brutality of rape frequently causes serious physical injuries that require long-term and complex treatment including

uterine prolapses (the descent of the uterus into the vagina or beyond)” — one has to wonder what lies “beyond” the vagina —

“vesico-vaginal or recto-vaginal fistulas and other injuries to the reproductive system or rectum, often accompanied by internal and external bleeding or discharge.”

It notes that such women usually can’t “access the medical care they need.”

Some still find it hard to sit down, or stand up, or walk. Some still spit up blood. Some have lost their eyesight or their memories. Some miscarried. Many contracted sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. No one knows how many of them died, or are dying, as a result.

I sat in stunned silence, still reading this article…

Surviving women as per the UNFPA/CDC survey in Lofa County, Charles Taylor’s backyard:

More than 98% said that, during his war (1999-2003), they lost their homes; more
than 90%, their livelihoods; more than 72%, at least one family member. Nearly 90% of them survived at least one violent physical assault; more than half, at least one violent sexual assault. No one inquired about the number of women now caring for the permanently disabled.

They are not called crimes against women

” In recent years, every kind of horror has been inflicted on girls and women in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire because they are female. If females were a particular ethnic group — Albanians, let’s say, or Tutsis — or if they espoused a particular religion, as did Bosnian Muslims, we could recognize what goes on as a kind of “gender cleansing” or mass femicide.”AJ article

Also, there is the idea that women are willing, and this next quote reminds me of when a certain Kenyan politician and published legal scholar, who graduated with top graduate honors in Law from a certain small school in Boston no less, made a remark on national TV in Kenya that likened some political move that “was like raping a woman who was already willing…(laughter by him)” Go figure that he lost respect from me right then. He was chided lightly and barely apologized to the nation. So rape is a joke to a lot of people

AJ reports,” Interviewed for a TV documentary on mass rape in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, a smiling guerrilla says he’s “made love” to many women. The interviewer asks if all the women were willing, and he laughs. He admits that many fight him, and he says — still grinning– “If they are strong, I call my friends to help me.” Despite his use of euphemisms, he knows just what he’s doing. When the
interviewer labels his love-making “rape,” he typically insists that rape happens in wartime and that when the war is over, he won’t do it anymore. The state of war excuses men’s crimes against women because rape — so the claim goes — is something that just naturally occurs in war. ”

This long quoted article caught my attention. I hope it gives you some basis to begin thinking about International Womens’ Day and the women in your life, and how you can play a part in making their world safer.

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