In conflicts throughout the world, sexual violence is routinely directed at females as a conscious strategy, although commanders and politicians may dismiss it as isolated incidents by rogue soldiers. Rape in conflict is a weapon to terrorize and degrade a particular community and to achieve a specific political end. The rape of one person is translated into an assault upon the community through the emphasis placed in every culture on women’s sexual virtue. The shame of the rape humiliates the family and all those associated with the survivor.
“I act, I feel differently from the other girls,” Sarudzai (a woman activist) said in the documentary. “I am not a virgin any more. It happened against my will. Maybe I have HIV. I wish I’d die. Then I’d feel no pain.”
Gender violence is a silent crime. Why? One reason is underreporting. Out of shame, economic vulnerability and powerlessness, women keep quiet about sexual abuse. In Zimbabwe, the most vulnerable, the poorest, uneducated, unemployed rural women like Sarudzai … are abused, which makes it all the more sinister.
We have a responsibility to speak out against human rights abuses and the time has come to do so.