Thursday, June 22, 2006

Heidi Schnakenberg: Readers Respond to Heidi Schnakenberg

Stopping Rape as a Weapon of War Must be Top Priority

One of the most important on-going crises for women and families, globally, is the systematic rape of women as a weapon of war. From Darfur to the Congo, from Bosnia to Columbia and Gaza, rape of women is frequently used not only as opportunistic sexual gratification but, more increasingly, as an effective means of deeply disempowering entire communities.

A 3-day UN conference on the crisis is being held in Brussels, and is the first conference to be devoted specifically to this problem. According to Amnesty International, more and more women and children are raped in order to destabilize entire families and in order to impregnate women with the enemies’ child, as a means of “ethnic cleansing.” Since women are perceived as life givers and nurturers, destroying them, destroys the community and effectively devastates hope. Worst of all, entire generations of women are being damaged, psychologically, and physically, and find it increasingly difficult to carry on in their communities, not to mention all of the women who are dying from HIV/AIDS as a result. This global rape of women is truly one of the most destructive consequences of war and conflict, and we will all have to cope with the effects for generations to come.

Not only must women be protected and be taught to protect themselves against war crimes for wars they did not start, women must be provided the best of medical attention, pregnancy choices, and psychological assistance available. This matter must be taken as one of the most important moves we can make in healing the effects of war. Without women’s strength to rebuild communities in war-torn countries, there will be no communities left. And if women are provided pregnancy options, effective healthcare, and education, the damage that war criminals hope to do on them, will be far less satisfying. Unfortunately, women are often quickly forgotten and rapists almost always never receive any punishment, even after war. To this day, the 200,000 Korean comfort women that were recruited to be brutally abused sex slaves by the Japanese military during World War II, still hold weekly protests demanding reparations, which they have never received.

The empowerment of these women, both past and present, is the key to halting the destruction of war-torn communities and healing the minds and hearts of women and their families. It is the first step that must be taken, not the last.