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Conference sounds global alarm to stop rape as tool of war

LatinaLista — Rape has always been a weapon of warfare in civil wars and uprisings since history was first recorded. Yet, thanks to two recent cases — CBS 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan who was assaulted while covering the Egyptian uprising and Libyan attorney Iman al-Obeidi who was raped by Libyan troops and fled to a hotel where journalists were staying and screamed her story until local authorities whisked her away — the world now has two well-known faces to put to an increasingly global crime that has thousands more faceless victims.


The rise of rape as a weapon of war is beyond disturbing in just how prevalent it is used. From Central and South America to Africa, Eastern Europe, China and islands scattered around the globe, rape is used to intimidate, demoralize and dehumanize women and their families.

This is the new face of war: Militias going on house-tohouse rape campaigns; girls as young as five and women as old as 80 shot in the genitals, or mutilated with razor blades; soldiers targeting whole villages for violation.

And as the scale of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo reaches surreal proportions -more than 1,150 rapes a day, by one account -many warn that sexual terrorism is spiralling out of control as the nature of warfare changes from the clash of national armies to savage internal conflicts in which women and children have become prime targets. Now sex attacks -pouring melted rubber into women’s vaginas, raping children in front of their parents -have become a core military strategy, not only in the Congo, but in conflicts around the world, from Sudan to Burma to Colombia.

So why aren’t more people talking about it?

Starting today, several female Nobel Laureates are spearheading what they hope will be the start to a global conversation about the issue in Montebello, Canada.

The three-day conference entitled, Women Forging a New Security: Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, brings together over 120 civil society activists, corporate and security sector leaders, military and peacekeeping personnel, and academics from around the world to discuss strategies for ending sexual violence in conflict.

The conference, though not livestreamed, will have three of its panel discussions live-blogged. Also, conference organizers will post updates on their Facebook page and there will be constant conversation tweeted with the hashtag: #endrapeinwar

In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, U.S. laureate Jody Williams says she hopes that the conference will be one step closer to creating a global campaign against sexual violence in conflict zones.

“We all have a responsibility to do more in the face of this horrific violence against women,” said Williams.

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