SPECIAL: Rape used as weapon in Burma
from the soldiers are killing their victims they have been ordered to rape them.
It is one of the world's most cruel tools of subjugation -- rape. Rape has been used throughout history, and continues to be used around the world as a means of cruelly subjugating rebellious peoples. Now, Burma is the latest country to allegedly employ the tactic in an effort to control rebellious ethnic minorities.
These Burmese rebels are not just fighting for their freedom, fighting to protect their women and daughters.
Women's rights organizations operating throughout the region have documented 81 cases of rape against women and girls across eight months of conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese military. They also reported that of these 81 rapes, 36 of the women were killed by the soldiers.
While it may be suggested that these are the actions of individual soldiers, the Women's League of Burma says, "by looking at the nature of the violations and the worsening situation during conflict, we can say with confidence that the military is precisely using rape as a weapon against women," according to Shirley Seng, the founder of KWAT.
Her organization has been conducting independent field investigations and evaluating the circumstances behind each incident. According to Seng, "How do we know that rape is being used as a weapon? Because the civilians who are attacked are told this by the soldiers attacking them."
It is important to understand that rape in other parts of the world is not viewed the same way as it is in the West. In the West, a woman who is raped is a tragic victim, and the perpetrator is generally labeled as a criminal deviant. In other parts of the world, such as Burma, there is a substantial stigma attached to being the victim of such a crime. Because that stigma hurts the victims and their families all the more, it can be used as a tremendous threat and a powerful tool in controlling families and individuals.
In addition to shaming people, these rapes may occasionally result in pregnancies which has the effect of mixing the bloodlines with the Burmese soldiers who attack them. The long-term result is that ethnic identities can become lost after generations of such activity.
Many victims explained that in their culture talking about rape is very shameful. Often, victims are reticent to discuss their attacks out of shame.
Whether or not the Burmese military has given explicit orders for soldiers to rape women, or whether these assaults are simply receiving tacit approval from commanders, is a matter for further investigation. But it is clear, that the reports of sexual violence in the region have escalated dramatically with the start of conflict.
For now, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations are observing the situation and have expressed concern. Whether these expressions of concern will turn into an effort to punish the perpetrators remains a great unknown.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: rape, Burma, ethnic minorities, women
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