Last week in London’s Tate Modern, I was just as enthralled with their collection as always, but it was Magda Cordell’s Figure (Woman) pictured here, that I kept returning to because the plaque beside the painting shared that although her work was originally seen as a “break with traditional representations of women,” more recently, it has been regarded by critics as “images of heroic femininity with the distortions signifying the resilience of the human body against injury and change.”
Those last words have run through my head many times this week as I heard radio reports and read CNN and BBC articles reporting “allegations of rape as a weapon of war” in the Congo and the UN’s and major politicians, hopefully, mounting response. These women and children are resiliency. Their bodies and beings have been pushed far past that word’s very definition.
According to Feminist News, on August 13, Margot Wallstrom the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, stressed in an interview with reporters that sexual violence during war is, “one of the greatest security risks of our time,” and she cited it “no more acceptable nor inevitable than committing mass murder.”
That same day Wartime Rape No More Inevitable, Acceptable than Mass Murder, appeared on CNN.com, and the article quotes Letitia Anderson, women’s rights specialist with the UN’s Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative as sharing, “Rape is being used by armed groups to reignite flames of conflict and to terrorize and humiliate communities in Africa.”
Although the UN’s Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative is monitoring Liberia, the Darfur region in Sudan, Chad and Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo just came out of a July 30 attack according to a BBC article, UN Investigates Claims of Mass Rape by DR Congo Rebels.
The article cites reports from the region that Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – which according to the US government is an armed, illegal rebel group that has terrorized eastern Congo for over a decade – “gang-raped nearly 200 women and some baby boys over four days before leaving. The region lies approximately 10 miles (16km) from a UN peacekeepers’ base.”
Yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement of condemnation on the recent attacks, “The United States has repeatedly condemned the epidemic of sexual violence in conflict zones around the world, and we will continue to speak out on this issue for those who cannot speak for themselves. Less than a year ago, I presided over the UN Security Council session where Resolution 1888 (2009) was unanimously adopted, underscoring the importance of preventing and responding to sexual violence as a tactic of war against civilians.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ends her statement, “When I visited the DRC last year, I learned an old proverb – ‘No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.’ In the depths of this dark night of suffering and pain, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. The United States will do everything we can to work with the UN and the DRC government to hold the perpetrators of these acts accountable, and to create a safe environment for women, girls, and all civilians living in the eastern Congo.”
In response, Founder of Run for Congo Women and author of A Thousand Sisters, Lisa Shannon’s blog cites, “If the IRC mortality study statistics have held, more than 500,000 Congolese people have died since your [Secretary Clinton’s] visit. Tens of thousands of women, children, and even infants have been raped, including the recent incident of close to 200 women and infants, within 10 miles of a UN compound. This is our shame.”
The blog highlights the pledge of the US government to release 17 million dollars to the Congo, that it has yet to receive. To support a call for immediate action, write Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Lisa Shannon’s A Thousand Sisters blog to pave the way for true change for women and children in the Congo.
Congo Rapes Put UN’s Wallstrom in Hot Seat [Women’s eNews]
This week officially kicked off a call for runners and donations so Team Congo Paris can run the 20 KM de Paris on 10.10.10 at 10 AM to raise monies in support of Run for Congo Women.