Sunday, May 22, 2011

Perennially Vulnerable

It's an old adage, that war is hell. That civilian populations suffer inordinately, in the ravages of war. That, in the fog of war, destructive emotions run deeply, withdrawing the humanity from those who pursue it, and that the most immediate looting that follows battles and victories is that of women's human rights. The violation of women during, throughout, and as an aftermath of war has always been a given.

The bestial occupation of killing an enemy embraces also the rape of women and children; helpless victims of men entirely subscribed to the mindset that there is nothing and no one to respect, and that utter submission to the most elementally base instincts are permissible. It is an expression of anger, of revenge, of abysmal hatred. It is sometimes state-sanctioned as a mode of ethnic murder.

It is a living, human tragedy that victimizes and traumatizes and horrifies.

Girls of eight, of ten years of age, gang-raped. Women and girls brutalized, their vaginas torn as though beyond repair, setting them up for a lifetime of pain and suffering. Mothers raped in front of their children. Fathers forced to witness their daughters being gang-raped. Grandmothers raped as a sign of contempt in a complete breakdown of societal norms. But then, what is normal?

The rapes take place as soldiers enter villages and towns and look for victims. They take place as rebel militias seek revenge on rival tribes or clans or political supporters. Rape has not become a weapon of war. It has always been a weapon of war. It has been assumed since time immemorial that soldiers returning from a day on the battlefield would look for releasing recreational opportunities.

In Africa, in Rwanda, in Democratic Republic of Congo, in Sierra Leone, in Liberia, in Angola, in Burundi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Central African Republic it has become institutionalized, a recognized and useful way of leaving an indelible impression of fear and loathing on the population.

What should be respected and held sacrosanct, a woman's body, a girl's emerging womanhood, as the wellspring of the future, is mocked and destroyed. It is not just in Africa, needless to say. Although Africa is where the worst of the vile excesses take place.

It is an age-old practise that demeans us as humans, as human predators, viciously victimizing the helpless, those most deserving of care and protection.

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