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myMADRE On Africa: Update on Violence against Women in Guinea

October 7, 2009

Via Madre:

Further media reports are beginning to show that the soldiers who went on a violent rampage in reaction to a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Guinea specifically and brutally targeted women during the attack.

A New York Times article in particular details accounts by witnesses and the few doctors and victims willing to speak about the atrocity. The article describes rapes, gang-rapes, beatings, and molestation by rifles and other objects − all in public, in broad daylight.

The leader of Guinea’s military junta, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a coup, has denied responsibility for the attack by his soldiers, which left 157 dead, and professes not to know whether rapes occurred, according to the Times.

A former prime minister, Sidya Touré, who was beaten at the stadium, said he never could have imagined “women as battlefield targets” in Guinea.

But no one should be able to imagine that, in any place. When the UN Security Council classified rape as a “war tactic” in 2008, Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, a former commander of the UN peacekeeping force in eastern Congo said rape as a military strategy destroys communities. “You punish the men, and you punish the women, doing it in front of the men,” he said.

Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired a meeting to introduce a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to conflict-area sexual violence. And on Monday the Security Council unanimously urged greater participation by women in all stages of conflict-resolution and peace-building, diplomatic ventures from which they have been historically underrepresented. (Read UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon’s statement on the necessity of adding women to these processes here.)

These strong words and intentions should not wither when confronted with a real and graphic instance of human rights abuses.

Women’s human rights organizations Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Lagos, and Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, condemned the military’s attack on women.

“We believe that the military junta cannot investigate the murders carried out by his men without being partial,” reads a statement jointly signed by the Executive Director of WARDC, Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode, and JDPC Director, the Rev. Fr. Patrick Ngoyi. The statement also calls for the demilitarization of the entire country.

“I can’t sleep at night, after what I saw,” the Times quotes one middle-aged woman who was beaten and sexually molested. “And I am afraid.”

See here for further information.

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