Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Nowhere To Turn. *Redux*

I originally wrote this diary back in 2009, but in light of recent news in India, it seems timely to repost it.

Physicians for Human Rights, in partnership with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, has published a report documenting the scope and long-term impact of rape and other sexual violence experienced by women who fled attacks on their villages in Darfur and are now refugees in neighboring Chad.

The report — titled “Nowhere To Turn: Failure To Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women” corroborates women’s accounts of rape and other crimes against humanity that they have experienced in Darfur, as well as rape and deprivations of basic needs in refugee camps in Chad. Based on interviews with female refugees living in Chad’s Farchana refugee camp, the report calls for “vigorous prosecution of rape as a war crime.”

Drawing courtesy Human Rights Watch, artist “Salah”, 13: “There were soldiers from Sudan, Janjaweed, and planes and bombs. I saw the Janjaweed take girls and women. The women were screaming. They seized them, they took them by force. The pretty ones were taken away…Girls were taken, small girls too, I think 5 and 7 and 14. Some came back after four or five hours…some we haven’t seen again.”

“Many Darfuri women refugees live in a nightmare of memories of past trauma compounded by the constant threat of sexual violence around the camps now,” said said Susannah Sirkin, the physician group’s deputy director.

“Women who report being raped are stigmatized, and remain trapped in places of perpetual insecurity. There’s no one to stop the rapes, no one to turn to for justice for past or ongoing crimes, and little psycho-social support to address their prolonged and unimaginable traumas.”

Dr. Sondra Crosby, a Physicians for Human Rights consultant and expert in refugee trauma, said “the atmosphere of intimidation was palpable as we listened to women describing their profound suffering and fear, and their yearning to return safely and with dignity to their former lives.”

Of those refugees interviewed, “32 reported instances of confirmed or highly probable rape” — 17 in Darfur and 15 in Chad, the group said. “Among the instances of rape reported in Chad, the vast majority (10 of 11 confirmed reports) occurred when women left the camps to gather firewood.” And just over half of the 88 women interviewed — 46 of them — live in fear of sexual assaults around the refugee camp.

The group supports the issuing of International Criminal Court warrants against the Sudanese perpetrators, calls for “legal reforms in Chad to end impunity for sexual violence,” and for “effective psychosocial support to survivors.” Further it said increased protections are needed by police and peacekeepers, including “effective firewood patrols.”

See the photos included in the report.


  1. Write a newer diary. Lots to discuss re: India.

    The UN’s human-rights chief calls rape in India a “national problem”. Rapes and the ensuing deaths (often from suicide), are routinely described in India’s press-though many more attacks go unreported to the public or police. Delhi has a miserable but deserved reputation for being unsafe, especially for poor and low-caste women. Sexual violence in villages, though little reported, keeps girls and women indoors after dark. As young men migrate from the country into huge, crowded slums, their predation goes unchecked. Prosecution rates for rape are dismally low and convictions lower still-as in many countries.

    Indian women also have much else to be gloomy about, especially if they live in the north. Studies and statistics abound, but India is generally at or near the bottom of the heap of women’s misery. A UN index in 2011 amalgamated details on female education and employment, women in politics, sexual and maternal health and more. It ranked India 134th out of 187 countries, worse than Saudi Arabia, Iraq or China. India’s 2011 census confirmed an increasingly distorted sex ratio among newborn babies in many states, as parents use ultrasound scanners to identify the sex of fetuses and then abort female ones. India is missing millions of unborn girls. Discrimination continues throughout life. Boys in villages are typically fed better than girls and are more likely to get an education. Women are routinely groped and harassed by men on buses and trains. Many Indian brides still pay dowries. The misery of daughters-in-law abused after moving in with their husbands’ extended families is a staple of crime reports and soap operas.

  2. Mnemosyne

    reading details on this because knew I couldn’t stand it. But I’ve followed the general outlines.

    Was there a Hindu-Muslim component, which explains so many other incidents of violence in India in recent years? Thinking of the train full of pilgrims that was firebombed several years back.

  3. The ‘West’ is not devoid of a history of outrageous sexism. Christianity has not been a theology that shines as a safe haven to be female in.

    This is part of the coming of age that cultures have to deal with, and it takes time. Sometimes it takes generations (yes, plural) to die off before maturity is reached.

    This is not negotiable. It is not morally relative. It is simply the way mature cultures behave themselves.

    In part it comes with affluence, and it comes with education. Poverty breeds ignorance, and ignorance breeds violence. This is the state that virtually all cultures – our own included – have existed in for almost all of time.

    And this is why it is impossible to separate economics from social justice, and why I find it difficult to fully align with pure liberal ideologies. “Capitalism” (for want of a better word) has done more to increase affluence than “Socialism” (for lack of a better word). Both words stir firey discourse from adherents and opponents to both, while the reality is that the right balance of both appears to be the real answer. Affluence increases more when folks can work to better their lot than it does when effort does not map to personal and family living standards. It also increases when there is the proper balance between individual freedoms and social responsibility.

    Improving the economies of regions where women are abused is the best way to reduce this abuse.

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