Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ka-BLOG Day 15: Action for the Women of Darfur

Saturday was Day 15 of the 16 Days campaign against gender-based violence. Sunday is International Human Rights Day. The focus for this year's IHRD will be on Darfur. Late Saturday eve, a prominent group of women leaders called for peacekeepers to be sent to Darfur to protect women and girls from sexual violence. Here is the text of their letter:
The government of Sudan has so far proved unwilling or unable to protect its own civilians and has even armed and supported the Janjaweed militia responsible for many of these attacks. While the African Union peacekeepers have tried to address this situation, their efforts have not been enough to provide sufficient protection. The international community must now deliver on its responsibility to protect these civilians.
Only the immediate deployment of a robust and effective international peacekeeping force can now keep the Darfuri women and children safe. Pressure must be stepped up and maintained until the government of Sudan accepts such a force. Every day Darfuri women wait for effective protection is another day that more of them suffer one of the most appalling crimes against humanity.
[Signed]
Mary Robinson, Former UN high commissioner for Human Rights; Carol Bellamy, Former executive head of Unicef; Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy; Glenys Kinnock, MEP; Edith Cresson, Former prime minister of France; Sigrid Rausing, Philanthropist; Prof Fatima Babiker Mahmoud, Sudanese academic and writer; Prof Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Former German minister of justice; Nicole Fontaine, MEP; Agnes Nyoka Peter, Sudanese member of the National Assembly; Yakin Erturk, UN special rapporteur on violence against women; Emma Bonino, Italian trade minister; Pola Uddin, House of Lords; Fay Mansell, Chair, Women's Institutes; Graca Machel, Children's campaigner
This is where the true power of the internet & global communication comes to bear: we can help stop this! We can TakeBacktheTech and...
  1. better inform ourselves,
  2. spread the word,
  3. donate aid,
  4. pressure our leaders to act
...and then we can do it all over again tomorrow, if we have to (and we will).

To better arm yourself with the facts about sexual violence in Darfur, I highly recommend AllianceDarc's report at ProtectDarfur.org. Even a cursory read-through the document tells us that the problem of rape is escalating in the region. Furthermore, it is clear that the consequences are terribly grave, indeed:
“More than 200 women have been sexually assaulted in the last five weeks alone around Darfur’s largest displaced camp, Kalma…This is a massive spike in figures. We are used to hearing of 2 to 4 incidents of sexual assault per month in Kalma camp.” [International Rescue Committee, Aug 2006]
[...] Left traumatised by the crime of rape itself, the consequences of sexual violence on women are long term. Some include:
  • Medical. The full range of health needs as a result of the severe effects of physical violence of rape is exacerbated by female genital mutilation (FGM) practised on the majority of women in the Darfur region. Medical consequences include internal bleeding, fistulas, incontinence and infection with sexually transmitted diseases such as Hepatitis B and C and HIV. The vast majority of survivors do not seek out nor have access to appropriate medical care.
  • Pregnancy as a result of rape. Both child and mother will likely suffer ostracism, trauma and further abuses of their rights. In addition to being thrown out of home, pregnant women have been reported arrested and detained in prison for illegal pregnancy.
  • Stigma and ostracism towards survivors of rape. In a testimony by a Darfur refugee in Chad, girls aged 9 to 13 who were raped while collecting firewood now have no prospect of marriage. [source]
  • Social and economic. Raped married or unmarried women may be rejected by their community and household without financial means for survival. [source]
  • Mental health problems as a result of stigmatisation, ostracism, pregnancy by perpetrators and irrecoverable destruction of survivors’ lives.
  • The low status of women further undermines the long-term consequences of rape. Impunity for rapists is promoting a climate of more violence against women as it increasingly is viewed as normal. The normalcy of violence, developed by impunity in general, is lethal for women and for building up new standards of ethics among humans.
To "Sound the Alarm" on Darfur and demand action from our world leaders, visit Globefordarfur.org and sign the petition.

Amnesty International will mark the day with bloody clothes: "Darfur 'Washing Lines' of Bloodied Clothes"
Bloodied clothes hung on washing lines are being placed in public spaces in over 150 countries worldwide. The clothes represent the women and children who have been abducted, raped and killed by armed factions and government troops in Darfur, while the rest of the world dithers.
Amnesty International activists around the world are participating in the Global Day for Darfur (10 December), to urge the immediate deployment of a UN Peacekeeping Force in the Sudan. The focus of this Global Day of Action is 'sexual violence against women and girls' in Darfur.
AI and Human Rights Watch have also released a statement regarding the women of Darfur. In addition to rape, women are also subjected into 'sexual slavery':
On 7 October 2006, during an attack on Djimeze Djarma in Chad, a group of women were captured by Janjawid and held for 20 days.
“The men made us cook, fetch water, feed their camels and horses, and cook food for them. They would move between us and if we disobeyed they would beat us with their whips. We suffered a lot. I thought that I would be killed.” A woman interviewed by Amnesty International in Chad, November 2006.
To find a Dec 10th event near you, visit GlobeforDarfur.org. Remember to sign their petition! AI has also provided suggestions for writing your MP.

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