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Worlds away from where we are

worldsawayare1.jpgThese are the kinds of things you know you never want to happen to you: rape, extreme poverty, war. Throw in a feeling of displacement, of never belonging, of never being able to come home.

In times of crisis, it seems that the incidences of rape increases. In several alarming cases reported in the wake of President Miwai Kibaki of Kenya declaring himself a winner in a highly-contested election, clashes have broken out. An estimated 250,000 have fled their homes, a large percentage of this being women and children.

Based on the number of reports at hospitals, health clinics, and NGO?s across the country, the number of rape incidents have risen noticeably since the unrest broke out. According to the news report, women’s position of relative weakness in society is emphasized in times of conflict, Kathleen Cravero, Director of the UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery said.

“Battles are fought on women’s bodies as much as on battlefields. It is not so much that women are targeted in some deliberate way but their vulnerability makes them easy targets for anger, for frustration, and for people wanting to cripple or paralyse other segments of the community in which they live.”

Many of the reported cases include women under the age of 18; one such report was of a 2-year old baby. As war is waged against perceived injustices and crime, so is war waged on the battlefield of women?s bodies. It is a cycle of violence that women are powerless to fight, coming as it does — this struggle — with the need to balance other pressing concerns in her life, such as the welfare and protection of her own children and the need to survive in hostile conditions. In such a situation, there is no space to attend to her own needs.

“Since the beginning of the month, we have had 140 cases of rape and defilement,” said Rahab Ngugi, patient services manager at the Nairobi Women?s Hospital. “We were used to seeing an average of about four cases a day, now there is an average of between 8 and 10.”

We are the mothers of humanity and yet we still count among the numbers of those who suffer most in times of crisis and calamity. We who have the biological impetus to care and nurture the lives of others, must ourselves be vulnerable to violent attacks on our person.

The article makes it clear that one way that this alarming problem can be addressed is if the government takes away the feeling of impunity that men possess when committing such dastardly acts.

Cravero says, “Before violence breaks out, and during, and after, [governments must] really push the question of impunity, make sure that people know that rape visited upon innocent women and children will be treated for what it is – a crime.”

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