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Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Rape: A political tool?

Tyrants with pathological cravings for power have organized campaigns of rape since ancient times, from Troy to Nanking and Sierra Leone to Cyprus, from East Pakistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond.

Since 1998, the international community has agreed that rape when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population

can be prosecuted as a crime against humanity.

AIDS-Free World is an international advocacy organization that specialises in a variety of fields including gender and human rights. In the weeks immediately after the June 2008 presidential elections in Zimbabwe, AIDS-Free World received an urgent call from a Harare-based organization.

The human rights activists were overwhelmed with reports from women associated with the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who had been raped by members of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, in a vicious campaign to intimidate voters and emerge victorious in the presidential election.

In response, AIDS-Free World undertook a series of investigative trips to the region with teams of lawyers to interview survivors of this violence.

The exceptionally violent rapes, as described by women from every province of Zimbabwe, were often nearly fatal. Survivors’ terror was prolonged by fears that their attackers were among the 15% of adults infected with HIV in Zimbabwe.

Every victim supported the MDC, and in every attack the attackers were clearly identifiable as ZANU-PF youth militia and war veterans.

 According to Aids-Free World, no country in the world has made it a priority to prevent or punish rape and because rape has some characteristics of consensual sex, most courts require proof—difficult to produce without witnesses—that victims were unwilling. Few rapes get reported, and convictions are rare.

When entire communities are targeted for rape, societal collapse ensues. Women cease to function, afraid to leave home, terrorized in equal measure by threats of rape and of its long-term, destructive aftermath.

“Most leaders and societies have not taken the time to understand rape, and so they erroneously place it along a continuum that begins with normal sexual arousal. Few recognize it as a separate, violent act of terror and control, as unrelated to consensual sex as force-feeding poison is to sharing a meal.” – Says Aids-Free World

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