Rape Used as Systematic Weapon of War in Sierra Leone
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report today stating that all parties in Sierra Leone’s ten-year civil war committed systematic sexual violence. Developed from hundreds of interviews with victims, witnesses, and officials, HRW’s 75-page report, “We’ll Kill You If You Cry,” describes alleged abuses committed mainly by soldiers of rebel forces such as the Revolutionary United Front, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, and the West Side Boys, as well as government and international peacekeeping forces. Between 1991 and 2001, thousands of women and girls of all ages, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic classes were sexually violated using tactics such as individual and gang rape and rape with objects like weapons, firewood, umbrellas, and pestles. HRW noted several incidents where child combatants raped elderly women, rebels raped pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and fathers were forced to witness the rape of their daughters. Women and girls abducted by rebels were often forced into slave labor following their sexual assault, and other abuses were committed against the victim, her family, and community.
The United Nations set up a special court for Sierra Leone to try alleged human rights violations in the country. According to BBC, the ten-year war has claimed around 30,000 lives and has left countless people maimed.
HRW issued another report last June confirming that all sides in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo used atrocities against women as a common military tactic intended to subdue the civilian population. Despite the prevalence of rape as a war strategy, soldiers continue unpunished.
In July 1998, 120 countries, excluding the United States, voted to adopt the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article 7 of the Rome Statute presents clear language defining gender crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity, and the crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Under Article 7, the rape and torture of women and girls in Sierra Leone and the Congo would qualify as a crime against humanity; therefore, violators could be tried before the ICC.
Media Resources: BBC 01/16/03; HRW report 1/2003, news 01/16/03; Feminist Daily News Wire
7/27/2015 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Blocked Efforts to Defund Planned Parenthood - An attempt in the Senate to defundÂ Planned Parenthood by Mike Lee (R-UT) was blocked this weekend by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).Â Lee tried to attach the elimination of federal funds for Planned Parenthood to a vote for highway legislation, a move which was rejected by McConnell asÂ out of order.
Republican legislators have redoubled their efforts to block funding for Planned Parenthood since the release of twoÂ heavily edited clandestine videos of different PPFA employees taken without their knowledge. . . .
7/24/2015 Katherine Spillar Urges Cleveland to Dramatically Increase Hiring of Women Police to Mitigate Police Violence - In a well-received speech at the City Club of Cleveland today, Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation urged Cleveland city officials to dramatically increase the hiring of women police officers as a way to decrease police brutality incidents.
Following a number of high profile police killings in Cleveland of African Americans, and an eight-month investigation by the US Attorney's office of the Northern District of Ohio, the City of Cleveland has now entered into a Consent Decree that requires numerous reforms in how the city oversees and investigates police operations, including training in use of force.
"Among the most important reforms mandated by the consent decree - and the most easily overlooked - are the changes the Cleveland Division of Police must make in its recruitment and hiring practices,
said Spillar. . . .