Breaking the Silence

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“Men rape women as a way of showing other men that they are weak and cannot even protect women in their community. We think world leaders look the other way on these issues.” –Bafana Khumalo

Rape is a weapon of war and it is being used right now. The article that I’m highlighting in this blog post is an interview of Bafana Khumalo, an activist for women’s rights. He’s been agitating for the rights of women for twenty years and he is now, along with VP Biden, being recognized for his efforts. In the interview, Khumalo makes mention of the recent abduction of two hundred Nigerian school girls. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however.

In the DRC, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, current figures estimate that a woman is raped every minute. That is a startling figure. The country is rich in mineral resources which has led to its status as a “target region” for foreign and neighboring military interests. The main perpetrators being Uganda and Rwanda. Rwanda, fresh from its recent civil war which saw the devastating violence between Tutsi and Hutu, in particular, is seeking mineral riches from its neighbor, Congo. Anonymous military militia groups raid mineral-rich territories at will for these resources and they leave a veritable no-man’s land of murder and rape in their wake.

People like Bafana Khumalo are the rare few who speak out against these acts of violence against women. The reason for this rarity is political. Uganda and Rwanda have long enjoyed privileged status as a U.S. ally. This means that they have carte blanche in respects to their foreign and domestic policy as long as it does not draw too much attention from the media or compromise the security of U.S. diplomatic and military interests in the region. You read that correctly. The U.S. government looks the other way as thousands of women in the Congo are being raped, even as I finish this sentence.

If you are a feminist (read: a person who believes in equal rights for everyone, regardless of gender), then you need to act now. Believe me when I tell you that there is real, local political pressure to keep silent about what is happening in the Congo right now. A student activist group known as Native Roots, in partnership with Friends of the Congo, put on an event last year shedding light upon what is happening in the Congo. A friend of mine approached several professors on campus to see if they would like to lend their voices in support of the event. Not only was she rebuffed for her efforts, but some of them even threatened to silence her activism. She and I came to the same conclusion: somebody was pressuring these people to remain silent about Congo. Let me say that again: somebody is pressuring educators at one of the world’s leading activist universities to stay quiet about rape and genocide. That should scare you – I know it scared the beJeezus out of me. But you know what? It also means that every time someone speaks out about Congo, it’s scaring the beJeezus out of that “somebody.”  Now is the time to break the silence.

Posted by Paul Yim

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