This year marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF is celebrating accordingly with a series of PSAs like the one above (here’s one with Ewan McGregor and one with Claudia Schiffer). To date every country in the world has ratified the agreement, except the United States and, um, Somalia (which has no functioning government.)
The young girl whispered in a hushed tone. She looked down as she spoke, only glancing up from her dark round eyes every now and then. She wanted to tell more, but she was too ashamed. She was just 9 years old when, she says, Congolese soldiers gang-raped her on her way to school. …
The United Nations estimates 200,000 women and girls have been raped in Congo over the last 12 years, when war broke out with Rwanda and Uganda backing Congolese rebels seeking to oust then-Congo President Laurent Kabila. Rape became a weapon of war, aid groups say.
“It is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman or girl,” says Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch who has spent the last 10 years focusing on Congo. “These are often soldiers and combatants deliberately targeting women and raping them as a strategy of war, either to punish a community, to terrorize a community or to humiliate them.”
Most times, the women are raped by at least two perpetrators. “Sometimes, that is done in front of the family, in front of the children,” Van Woudenberg says. She sighs, “What causes men to rape — I wish I had an answer to that.”
I’m glad that my former boss, Hillary Clinton, is there speaking out forcefully about this issue. We need to draw more attention to it.
More from my Dispatch co-blogger, Alanna.
Don’t get me wrong, I am wholly supportive of this step, mostly because of the consensus required to enact it:
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to name and shame countries and insurgents groups engaged in conflicts that lead to children being killed, maimed and raped.
The council resolution will expand a U.N. list that in March identified more than 60 governments and armed groups that recruit child soldiers.
But, first, it’s already pretty clear which countries or groups are responsible for the deaths and rapes of children, isn’t it? Second, naming and shaming alone obviously won’t suffice. Anyone who can kill innocent children is likely lacking in the moral compunction department, so “shame” would seem to be out of their range of emotional responses to this crime.
That said, this is an impressive and positive step for the Security Council to take unanimously. The tougher part, of course, will be following the naming and shaming with concrete and effective action.
Starting today, MTV audiences around the world will see a new music video that aims to raise awareness about sex trafficking. Featuring the rock band The Killers, the video is an exclusive collaboration between UNICEF, MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) and the US Agency for International Development.
The track, Goodnight, Travel Well, is from the album Day & Age. The video is the second in a series of music video collaborations that highlight the danger and impact of human trafficking.
The series launched last year with an award-winning film – produced by MTV EXIT that featured the Radiohead single All I Need.
This is deeply disturbing:
A top Taliban leader in Pakistan is buying and selling children for suicide bombings, Pakistani and U.S. officials said.
Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has been increasingly using the children in attacks, the officials said. A video released by Pakistan’s military shows the children training for the task.
In the video of a training camp, children can be seen killing and going through exercises.
Mehsud has been selling the children, once trained, to other Taliban officials for $6,000 to $12,000, Pakistani military officials said.
It’s worth noting that with all this triumphant talk about the Twitter revolution in Iran – especially when it’s about a lesser-of-two-evils candidate – we can’t summon a fraction of the energy and passion to save abused, raped and battered women across the globe. Nor can we muster the same attention and will to deal with the plight of children who are dying of hunger, deprived of the bare necessities of life.
Here are the brutal facts:
* Millions of women and girls (our mothers, sisters and daughters) endure one or more of the following: intimate partner violence; sexual abuse by non-intimate partners; trafficking, forced prostitution, exploitation, debt bondage, sex selective abortion, female infanticide, and rape.
Perhaps it’s boiling frog syndrome, the fact that global hunger and women’s rights are ongoing tragedies/travesties without sudden spikes of interest. Or perhaps it’s the futility of confronting these intractable issues, a sense that we’re powerless to change such pervasive problems.
That’s not to say that there aren’t many courageous and dedicated people working to alleviate hunger and protect women’s rights. There are. But where is the massive outrage, the worldwide focus, the grainy images, the Twitter-mania, the color-coded avatars? Most importantly, where is the urgency, the immediacy?
Clearly, something is happening in Iran with technology that signals a new era in global activism. This is the first period in human history when so many individuals, friends and strangers, can speak to one another simultaneously, on equal footing; there’s never been a time when ten million people could converse at once, on the same topic, using the same platform.
That also means they can shout and raise the alarm about injustice together. And as we’re seeing with CNN, those millions of impassioned people can pressure the media to get on board, further increasing the level of attention.
So why isn’t this happening for oppressed and abused women or hungry and starving children, when their aggregate pain and suffering is far greater and the threat to them more severe than to the (brave) Iranian demonstrators? Where’s the intense coverage, the excitement over the potential of Twitter and Facebook to alter the course of history?
I’m not calling for less focus on Iran, but more, much more, on the mortal threat so many women and children face.
I’ll conclude with a clip from Channel 4 News in the UK, where I was asked to comment on Gordon Brown’s statement that because of the Internet, there will be no more Rwandas. My answer: what about Darfur?
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.