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9-Year-Old Raped in “One of the Worst Places to be a Woman or Girl”

From CNN:

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.

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U.S. Still in Denial on Gender Violence

This is welcome news:

The Obama administration has opened the way for foreign women who are victims of severe domestic beatings and sexual abuse to receive asylum in the United States. The action reverses a Bush administration stance in a protracted and passionate legal battle over the possibilities for battered women to become refugees.

But one sentence caught my eye:

In addition to meeting other strict conditions for asylum, abused women will need to show that they are treated by their abuser as subordinates and little better than property, according to an immigration court filing by the administration, and that domestic abuse is widely tolerated in their country.

Are we kidding ourselves? Name a country, including the U.S., where domestic abuse isn't widely tolerated.

In the words of the WHO, "Gender-based violence, or violence against women (VAW), is a major public health and human rights problem throughout the world."

Here's a chilling video in which Keira Knightley reenacts the vicious and cowardly abuse women are subjected to on a daily basis:

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Singer Ayman Udas Allegedly Gunned Down by Her Brothers for Appearing on TV

As Dispatch readers know, I focus a good portion of my posts on the unconscionable crimes perpetrated by humans against humans, and especially on the brutal treatment of women and young girls around the globe.

In a recent piece on Huffington Post, I wrote:

The World Health Organization's World Report on Violence and Health estimates that over a million people lose their lives to violence and millions more are injured and maimed every year. The report states that violence is "among the leading causes of death among people aged 15-44 years worldwide, accounting for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females."

What's so disturbing is the myriad forms this violence takes and how deeply pervasive and borderless it is. Across the globe and across the centuries, humans have committed the most barbaric acts, limited only by their imaginations, and the march of civilization has done little to change the grim reality that on any given day, in every corner of our planet, gruesome and ungodly things are done to women, children and men.

In Beirut during the '70s and early '80s, I witnessed terrible acts of violence, car bombs at supermarkets and missile strikes on residential neighborhoods, bloody bodies and corpses in the street, the carnage of urban warfare. It has made me keenly attuned to the darker aspects of human nature, the willingness to brutalize one another. Four decades on this planet and I still cannot fathom how a man can rape a baby, how people can gas, hack, strangle, shoot, smother, burn, and torture their fellow humans. Rather than become dulled and inured from violence overload, I am ever more appalled and horrified by it.

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Camel Justice?

In January, a Somali national working for the UN's World Food Program, Ibrahim Hussein Duale, was shot and killed. Murdering aid workers is, unfortunately, not uncommon in Somalia; what would be more unusual is for the perpetrator to be brought to justice. And even more unusual would be if the party dispensing justice were itself an extremist militant group with a history of killing UN aid workers. Yet...
An Islamic court in southern Somalia on Tuesday sentenced a man who had killed a United Nations aid worker to pay the victim’s family 100 female camels as compensation. The defendant pleaded guilty to the murder of a senior World Food Program official. The trial took place in a region that is under the control of the Shabab, a hard-line Islamist group, and its allies.
I suppose it's also unusual that payment in 100 female camels is the method of meting out justice, but that is no small sum. And this is a group that routinely kills UN aid workers that we're talking about. (image from flickr user Somali Nomad under a Creative Commons license)
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Reports of sexual assault by US military personnel up 8%

A troubling BBC report:
Reports of sexual assault by US military personnel against both fellow troops and civilians rose by 8% last year to 2,923, the Pentagon says. The number of incidents reported in Iraq and Afghanistan rose by about a quarter on the previous year to 163. Pentagon officials say the jump in reports suggests the department's policy of encouraging victims to come forward is bearing results. But they estimate that no more than 20% of attacks are actually reported. "Given the fear and stigma associated with the crime, sexual assault remains one of our nation's most under-reported crimes in both the military and civilian community," said Dr Kaye Whitley, the director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault and Prevention Office.