Monday, June 20, 2011

Rape as Weapon of War is Bigger Issue

During the debate over the extension of the Libyan "mission", NDP foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, brought up the subject of rape as a weapon of war.

He wanted the Conservatives to promise to address the issue.

This may have been inspired by the change in the language of our foreign policy, that prevents Canadian foreign aid workers from discussing victims of sexual abuse, among other things.

However, there are several reasons why this point shouldn't be raised at this time.

First off, the International Criminal Court already prosecutes those who use rape as a weapon of war, so we don't, in this instance, need to take it any further.

Secondly, headlines of systematic rape in Libya, have a propaganda feel, so may cloud the reasons for this war. Bringing it up in Parliament, enables the Conservatives to justify their bombing.

But the most important factor, is the issue of rape itself. We have to understand Libyan culture.

According to a report by CNN, while the ICC is gathering evidence, the rebel forces are destroying proof of sexual assaults themselves.
"There was a commander here at the eastern front in Misrata named Mohamed al-Halboos; he ordered all the (rebel) fighters to give him all the rape videos they find on Gadhafi soldiers' cell phones. I heard that he used to destroy every rape video he got," al-Kabeir said.

Asked why potential evidence of war crimes being carried out by pro-Gadhafi forces would be destroyed by rebel forces, he cited the heavy stigma that Libyan culture attaches to the victims of such crimes.

"Aside from being a heinous crime, rape is perceived here in our culture as damaging not only for the girl, but also the whole family," he said. In fact, he added, rape is such a taboo here that some victims' families would rather erase potential evidence than risk living with the shame.
It's a very sensitive issue, and normally I would feel, that if it is indeed taking place, it should be brought to our attention.

But in this case, those raped could be victimized twice.

I like Paul Dewar very much and understand where he's coming from. But foreign policy can be very complicated, which is why we need a diplomatic corp, that is respected and listened to, so we don't trip up and make matters worse.

After reading Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, I can't help but think that this is just another self serving attack on an oil rich nation, since it comes after Gadhafi was demanding more money from the oil companies.

However, understanding the enormity of western imperialism, I know that realistically, it's not something we can put an end to tomorrow. So for the time being, we must demand that human rights are protected.

And in Libya, that means profound descretion. That doesn't mean turning our back on rape, but making sure that we don't sensationalize the issue, leaving it to the experts.

That's my two cents worth.

1 comment:

  1. If it is like in Pakistan or Jordan, the women might be killed outright because they are "soiled" and are "soiling" the family and worse, the whole tribe.

    Women are property. Once they have been "used", they are no longer of any value.

    Gadhafi's pseudo feminism never addressed that.