Rape as a weapon of war

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JEB SHARP: Wars are not just what happens between armies. Civilians get caught up in the fighting. We're going to focus now on a particularly disturbing tactic of war that is aimed at civilians. That's the use of rape as a weapon. The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to tackle this issue tomorrow. Perhaps the worst recent cases have been in places like eastern Congo where armed groups have used rape to terrorize communities. I visited eastern Congo last year and spoke with rape victims at a place called Panzi Hospital. Here are some of their voices and I should warn you their stories are disturbing. Here's one girl I met, a tiny ten year old in blue jeans named Marie.

GOETZ: I've been raped by a junta soldier who came in my house. They first of all killed my parents and then they raped me, there were three.

SHARP: Another young patient at the hospital, also called Marie, was traveling to the local market with six other women when their vehicle was ambushed by armed men. She says the attackers dragged the women into the bush.

GOETZ: So they took off all our dresses and we were naked. They killed one woman among us; one man raped me and another one make sex with me, put his sex in my mouth.

SHARP: Those are the kinds of stories you hear all too often in war zones like eastern Congo. Joining me now is Anne-Marie Goetz. She's the chief advisor for Governance, Peace and Security at UNIFEM, the UN Development Fund for Women. Anne-Marie Goetz, first just let me ask you what strikes you about those women's voices and their stories.

ANNE-MARIE GOETZ: These are awful experiences and what's horrifying is that if anything, rape in war seems to be increasing. Particularly in this context, in eastern Congo where in spite of the signing a peace agreement earlier this year and the effort to round up remaining militia, rape has if anything been on the increase and in parts of eastern Congo, for example in North Kivu, three out of four women have been raped by men in uniform. This is an emergency on a phenomenal scale and that's exactly what's so important about the Security Council resolution which will be discussed tomorrow on Rape in Conflict.

SHARP: Now tell us about that. The U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is expected to chair the session. The council is expected to pass a fresh resolution on preventing and punishing rape as a weapon of war but what's in the resolution and I don't mean the flowery UN language. I mean what are the two or three tangible things in there that are actually going to make a difference?

GOETZ: What's going to happen tomorrow is that the Security Council is going to recommend the security general to appoint a senior special representative of the secretary general on sexual violence whose sole job will be to address this horrifying feature of fighting. In addition, there's going to be a task force of technical advisers on judicial systems who, at the initiation of governments in opposed conflict phase, will be able to come in and strengthen judicial response. This is exceptionally important for addressing the problem of impunity, de fact impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of this violence.

SHARP: One of the problems in eastern Congo is a huge number of rapes are reported and a tiny percentage makes it into the court. How does this change the judicial picture?

GOETZ: The idea is to go into a place where the judicial system is in disarray, the corrections system is virtually non-existent and to quickly support the country, to set priorities for fast tracking investigations and prosecutions of these crimes.

SHARP: Anne-Marie Goetz, this sounds really, really good. How can you persuade us that we should not be really skeptical, given the nature of the UN bureaucracy?

GOETZ: I think we are seeing a sea change in the way that this issue is being approached by the United Nations. There is no question that there's an uphill battle, that a great deal of peace keeping troops need to be trained in a different way. The challenges are huge.

SHARP: The former UN Secretary General, Jan Egland, had a good way of explaining the way rape as a weapon of war had been viewed at the UN, really right up until now. Let's hear that tape.

JAN EGLAND: I think it may be one of the biggest conspiracies of silence of history lists and we treat it at best as a humanitarian problem. So you've been gang raped, have a blanket. You've been gang raped again, have another blanket. Whereas it should be a political and a security and a justice problem.

SHARP: Anne-Marie Goetz, it sounds as if you would agree with that but do you see the mentality, the emphasis shifting to the degree it needs?

GOETZ: Have mentalities changed? Within the humanitarian sector, as Jan Egland rightly points out, there has been much more willingness to detect and to do something about sexual violence but very much in the sense of responding to the needs of its survivors. Within the uniformed personnel of the UN and certainly within for example, even the peacemakers, the mediators, yes, lots of work has to be done to raise awareness. That this is a way of fighting, it is a prescribed method of war, just as landmines and cluster bombs are and therefore this must be addressed and attacked.

SHARP: Anne-Marie Goetz is the Chief Advisor for Governance Peace & Security at UNIFEM, the UN's development agency for women. She joined us from the UN. Thank you.

GOETZ: Thank you.