In late October, Radio Dabanga aka “ Rape Radio ”, a small radio station of Darfur, reported the rape of more than 200 women and girls in the village of Tabid. Albeit the atrocity of the event, the international focus shifted to the truthfulness of the news reported, since UNAMID, the African Union-United Nation Mission in Darfur, recently claimed the contrary. This discrepancy comes as no surprise to the former UNAMID spokeswoman, Aicha Elabsri. According to Ms Elabsri, UNAMID was created on a double nature: to ideally protect the civilians and contribute to the promotion of human rights but to practically defend the State and its president, Omar al-Bashir. The power of the government exercised on UNAID has been revealed during the interviews held by the UNAID’s spokesmen to prove the accuracy of the news: the presence of police officers and other State’s officials inhibited the women to speak the truth, thus denying the abuse.
Besides the inconsistency of information, what needs to be considered is that rape is not only a consequence of the social and political instability created by a war, but it is also and foremost an integral tool of a war. As a weapon of genocide, rape is used in three ways: to damage women’s body to prevent them from having children, to ostracize unmarried women so that they can’t begin families and to impregnate women with children who are not ethnically African. This practice has been in use since the Ancient Greeks but its incidence has become even greater during the Second World War when the advancing Russian troops sexually abused German women as a mean of terrorizing enemy civilians. In the late 20thcentury, during the Rwandan genocide, rape turned into an even more atrocious act: it deliberately became a mean of transmitting a greatest scourge, HIV.
Although in 1993 the UN Commission for Human Rights declared systematic rape to be a crime against humanity, the social and cultural embeddedness and the complex bureaucracy characteristic of African countries inhibit women from condemning the crime, thus limiting the intervention of international organisations. On the 30th November a twelve-year-old girl from Hamidiya camp (Darfur) was reported by Radio Dabanga to be raped by two soldiers. Her parents immediately brought the girl to the hospital but the doctors refused to treat her in absence of ‘Form 8’. Form 8 is a document issued exclusively by police officers, which includes a report of the physical abuse received; compiling the form often results in being accused of adultery, given the social stigma associated with rape, and in being even more humiliated. This practice is a tremendous deterrent, which forces women into a vicious circle almost impossible to escape.
Rape is dehumanizing. Rape is humiliating. Rape is a crime. It is the feeling of not being anyone and the absolute elimination of dignity, self-esteem and trust. It is a brutal violation of a person’s dignity and soul: it is unjust.
“You who live safe/ In your warm houses,/ You who find, returning in the evening,/ Hot food and friendly faces:/ Consider if this is a man.” Primo Levi