Agence France-Presse, December 8, 2004
Women Bear the
Brunt of War, Amnesty International Says
LONDON -- Raped, treated as the sexual 'booty'
of war or slain by indiscriminate bombings,
women are too often the first victims of conflict,
Amnesty International charged Wednesday in
a report demanding legal redress.
The London-based human rights group called for
action by the International Criminal Court
to halt oppressive violence against women.
"Patterns of violence against women in conflict
do not arise 'naturally' but are ordered, condoned
or tolerated as a result of political calculations,"
its secretary general Irene Khan said in introducing
the 120-page report on women in war.
Not only are women "considered as the legitimate
booty of victorious army," the report
said, but "the use of rape as a weapon
of war is perhaps the most notorious and brutal
way in which conflicts impact on women."
"Women's bodies, their sexuality and reproductive
capacity are often used as a literal battleground,"
Khan, the first women, the first Asian and the
first Muslim to head Amnesty International,
told AFP in an interview that "it's quite
interesting to see that women rights have been
used as justification for military intervention,
in the cases of both Iraq and Afghanistan."
But, she added, "on the ground the situation
changes very little in favor of women ... In
the case of Afghanistan we have seen no improvement.
"Warlords are occupying parts of the territory
and see women as commodities for trading, to
settle land dispute. Abductions and forced
marriages are about as bad, if not worse, than
at any time in Afghan history.
"Warlords are not being pulled out, they're
not being prosecuted, they're not being investigated
for the crimes that are openly committing."
Even where women are not deliberately targetted,
they are the main victims of so-called collatoral
damage, whether caused by "precision"
bombing or landmines, the report said.
"In Iraq in 2003, US forces reportedly used
more than 10,500 cluster munitions containing
at least 1.8 million bomblets. An average failure
rate of five percent would mean that about
90,000 unexploded munitions are now on Iraqi
The report urged the International Criminal Court
to "pick up and prosecute one or two high-profile
cases because that will send the message that
violence against women cannot continue in such
an impunity, which is the norm today."
The court, headquartered in The Hague, began
operating in July 2002 and is mandated to try
genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Kahn acknowledged the way ahead would be tough,
but said she hoped the report would generate
pressure for change.
Women and children make up 80 percent of the
world's 40 million refugees, but they have
no voice, and injustices go unpunished,"
"If you take the example of the Korean women,
the comfort women in Japan, who were used as
sex slaves during the second world war, even
now they're still battling for the recognition
of their case," Khan said.
The report detailed widespread rape in conflicts
around the world, including the Darfur region
of Sudan, Colombia, Nepal, Chechnya, India
and, earlier this year, in the tiny Pacific
territory of the Solomon Islands.
Tens of thousands of women and young girls were
raped during the conflicts sweeping the Democratic
Republic of Congo.
"Ten years on from the genocide in Rwanda,
where violence against women was a central
element of the strategy to eliminate a particular
ethnic group, little or nothing seems to have
been learned about how to prevent such horrors,"
the report said.
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