Friday, April 27, 2007

Women in Darfur: How to Help

Save Darfur

STAND (Student Anti-Genocide organization)

Twenty Women For Darfur

Women’s Human Right’s Network

Women for Women International: Darfur

Monday, April 23, 2007

Women in Darfur: The Situation

The Conflict

Darfur has been embroiled in a deadly conflict for over three years. At least 400,000 people have been killed; more than 2 million innocent civilians have been forced to flee their homes and now live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad; and more than 3.5 million men, women, and children are completely reliant on international aid for survival. Not since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has the world seen such a calculated campaign of displacement, starvation, rape, and mass slaughter.

Since early 2003, Sudanese armed forces and Sudanese government-backed militia known as “Janjaweed” have been fighting two rebel groups in Darfur, the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The stated political aim of the rebels has been to compel the government of Sudan to address underdevelopment and the political marginalization of the region. In response, the Sudanese government’s regular armed forces and the Janjaweed – largely composed of fighters of nomadic background – have targeted civilian populations and ethnic groups from which the rebels primarily draw their support – the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

Women in Conflict

Much of the violence perpetrated in the Darfur conflict has resulted in grave human rights violations against women. These violations against women and girls include abductions, rape and forced displacement. The only real protection being provided for Darfuri women and girls has been from African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), despite significant restrictions on its capabilities.

Rapes and Sex Slavery

As Amnesty International reported in July, women and girls as young as 8 are being raped and used as sex slaves in the conflict area, despite guarantees by the Sudanese government to disarm the Janjawid.
In some cases the Janjawid have raped women in public, in front of their husbands, relatives or the wider community. These women and girls are being attacked not only to dehumanize them, but also to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear upon, displace and persecute the community to which they belong.

The Janjawid have acted with full impunity and with the full knowledge or acquiescence of the government army, and the government of Sudan has not charged a single member of the Janjawid or of the armed forces with committing rape or kidnapping.

In fact, the mass rapes ongoing in Darfur are war crimes and crimes against humanity that the international community is doing little to stop.

Despite the Security Council's actions and our report, the situation appears only to be getting worse. On Aug. 10, a United Nations High Commission for Refugees spokesperson reported that the agency has received reports of an increasing number of rapes inside government and Janjawid-run displacement camps. Authorities in Khartoum not only have done little to stop the rapes; medical resources for the proper care of victims, including trained personnel and facilities to treat sexually transmitted diseases, are sorely lacking.

Single Women in Most Danger

Women and children make up the majority of the population in the camps. As Amnesty International learned from testimonies gathered last May, married women who have lost their husbands to violence and single women are in particular danger of abuse and exploitation, whether they have settled in camps for the internally displaced or have fled to nearby villages.

Their children are more likely to be affected by malnutrition, less likely to receive an education and these survivors and their daughters may be forced into prostitution.

Displacement has also led to an increase in the number of early marriages, with some families resorting to marrying their daughters at a very young age in the hope that marriage will give some measure of protection from the threat of sexual violence, protection parents feel unable to provide.

The Janjawid have raped many women who, fearing their husbands will be killed if they venture outside the camps, have gone in their place to collect firewood. The Janjawid also have tortured women to coerce them to report the whereabouts of their husbands. Forms of torture reportedly have included forcing the faces of women between wooden sticks and pulling out women's nails. Some women also have reported that the Janjawid have broken the legs of rape victims in order to prevent them from escaping.

While giving ample attention to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the international community needs to do more to stop what is happening to Darfur's women and girls. If the victims were our mothers, our daughters and our sisters, the international community would respond more vigorously.

From “Help Stop Violence Against Women in Darfur” by Beth Glick, program associate for the Crisis Preparedness and Response Unit of Amnesty International USA.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don Imus

So the d.j. who called the women of the mostly black Rutgers basketball team "nappy-headed hos" has been let go from simulcast on MSNBC. That's some consolation, knowing that when people respond to such hateful remarks then companies listen (even if just for no other reason that economic boycott--yep, it's still powerful). Granted he will probably keep his radio show, but at least something has been done.

Unfortunately remarks like this aren't all that uncommon. Women are referred to in derogatory terms in music, film, and other media daily. For the record, I don't think calling a woman a bitch or a ho in a rap song is OK. Remarks like that trickle down to the culture and are demeaning even if they aren't meant to be. (Side note: One creative way to resist the negativity associated with words is to reappropriate them--i.e. Bitch Magazine--but that does not completely remove its power b/c broader society still utilizes them in offensive ways).

And I'm for freedom of speech, but I do think there needs to be accountability for racist and sexist slurs such as these.

Political talk shows, from every side of the spectrum, are routinely offensive to any number of groups. But at least they are trying to make a point. At least they have a context. They might be trying to make a point I find offensive or don't agree with, but at least there is a point.

We are all a little (or a lot) racist and sexist. Unsolicited remarks such as Imus' show how fallen and insensitive we are. The whole thing makes me examine myself. Imus spoke these slurs not knowing anything about the women on this team. Nothing about their character, lives, or accomplishments. If I really believe all people are equal, then I will treat them as such by the words that I speak.

I think about all it has taken for women to be recognized as athletes, let alone for women of color to play on integrated college teams. We still have so much left to fight for if such a prominent figure can dismiss the collective and individual accomplishments of women and women of color so easily.

Moreover it makes me realize how much fight I've got left...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Somet thoughts on non-violence

In studying non-violent resistance, I have become very confused. I am with Ella Baker--she believed that militancy was a good idea some times and non-violence was a good idea at other times. But she always believed action was necessary. The term pacifism implies non-action, which is contrary to the way we are set up to help others. But I believe it is possible to be extremely active in non-violent ways. War has done very little for the world, and peaceful resistance, though it takes longer, has longer-lasting results.

Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, did a sermon series in December entitled "Calling All Peacemakers." He pointed out that Jesus told Peter to drop his sword when Jesus was arrested. And Bell also pointed out that Christ's acceptance of crucifixion was, in a sense, Him rebelling against a cruel and unjust justice system. I'm mulling that over during Easter, thinking about all the violent ways God could have saved the world, and He didn't. It was Jesus coming to be the Prince of Peace, to save the world in ways no one had ever seen.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

There is Rock and Always Water

If I were to guess why I was so afraid of failure, it would be to say that I am afraid of unfulfillment. We have very interesting ways to illuminate our own desires when met with the question of why we live. Being is an understatement for the ways we decide to move, forcing ourselves through the crevices of unmovable rock. We gain strength from the untimely changes that confront the way we constructed our future, and climb higher on the hills of uncertainty.

Why the day begins to break
Why the stars are outnumbered
by the
of Your