The use of rape as a tool of war persists, but attention to it does not.
The current Africa tour of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has again shed welcome light on the deplorable and devastating practice of sexual violence (mostly against women and girls) in armed conflicts, sometimes by military personnel themselves.
Today a news report details the story of a young girl raped by soldiers in Congo, which would be shocking if it weren’t so common. The UN estimates that 200,000 women and girls have been raped in Democratic Republic of Congo in the last 12 years. Other estimates have put this number closer to half a million.
An aid worker is quoted as saying: “Congo is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman or girl“, echoing the earlier words of former UN peacekeeping commander Major General Patrick Cammaert when he said in 2008 that “it has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a solider in an armed conflict.”
Still, these news reports and missives from frontline NGOs are but a fraction of the attention that is needed to bring an end to rape as a weapon of war. Earlier this year we argued that medical editors and health professionals are powerful lobbyists, and must do more to shine the light on this intolerable crisis:
Medical journalists and editors, along with health care professionals, have the authority, the skills, and the audience to draw the world’s attention to the brutality and intolerability of sexual violence in armed conflicts.