Why use rape as a weapon?

Flicking through the news this morning I came on this horrific report of the gang rape of a teenage girl by seven teenage boys, mostly known to her, in east London.

 

Staggering. Sickening. I can’t believe this happened close to where I work at the Amnesty offices, and that such gang ‘punishment attacks’ against young people in this part of London are to some extent ‘normalised’.

 

What utter terror must this young woman have experienced. Perpetrated by young men who were legally ‘juveniles’, even children.

 

And it’s too shocking because it’s so similar to what’s happening in Congo, as reported on in huge and disturbing depth by the Guardian.

 

There armed groups rampage through villages raping women systematically because it’s an established way of terrorising the whole population.

 

The film by Rwandan nurse Leah Chishugi is the most upsetting thing I saw in a long time. Chris McGreal’s piece on how rape has been used again and again in this region is horrific.

 

Why rape? Why so intimate an act as a way of inflicting terror, whether in east London or Congo?

 

Because women’s bodies are still to come extent ‘common property’; an act perpetrated on or to a woman’s body invades everyone’s territory and sense of security. In Congo whole villages flee after a spate of rapes. In east London every other young person is warned not to offend against this gang.

 

What can be done to stop men using rape as a weapon?

 

Amnesty’s Heather Harvey discusses the international legal efforts to recognise rape  a weapon of war and to build women into conflict resolution here.

 

There are huge legal, political and cultural battles to fight on this, but we can’t afford not to win.

 The law seems somewhat better able to protect women here in the UK, but so long as a culture which hates women and chooses to violate them this way, and which also grants impunity to attackers persists, we are still a long way from justice and security for women here at home too.

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