This morning, I was reading the latest (March 17) issue of Time magazine. It contains an article on the Darfur conflict, and how the lines between “good” guys and “bad” guys are blurring.
Of course, there are extended descriptions of the violence and of the impact of that violence. But somehow, the issue of rape is conspicuously absent. In an article that is over 1,100 words long, the word appeared once, towards the very end of the article, as an after thought:
Amid continued militia and government attacks, it is Darfur’s civilians–both Arab and African–who suffer most. Battles last year drove more than 280,000 from their homes. Some find their way to Darfur’s swollen relief camps, home now to well over a third of the region’s population. But the camps are not immune to the violence. Many are controlled by the armed factions, and gangs of all stripes rob and rape many of those who venture outside. Other refugees wander Darfur’s unforgiving scrub, searching for a village or patch of land with some semblance of stability. Darfur’s humanitarian operation, already the largest in the world, struggles to service the displaced. Roads are a gauntlet of banditry, and attacks on relief workers are rising.
The word “woman?” It doesn’t appear in the article. Neither do the words “child” or “children.” Not once.
Can I possibly be the only one who sees something wrong with that picture? Yes, the article is about soldiers. It’s also about the extreme violence they have experienced and the atrocities that they commit.
Nearly every source I’ve found (a dozen or so) say that the rates of rape in Darfur are impossible to tell. Women for Women International says that 2 million women have been raped — but this is since 1956, not 2003 where the current conflict officially “began.” We do know that approximately 200 rapes are reported every month(pdf), in a country where only a tiny, nearly negligible, fraction of women actually report sexual violence.
This is what we’re talking about (trigger warning): Women being raped in public. Women being raped in front of their husbands. Women being raped next to their dead husbands’ bodies. Women being raped in front of their children. Women being abducted and raped for days on end. Women having their legs broken so that they cannot escape during rape. Women being stabbed and otherwise mutilated during rape. Women becoming impregnated with the children of their rapists. Pregnant women being raped. Very small girls being raped. Very small boys being raped. Women and children being raped and then murdered. Almost all of these rapes will be gang rapes. Women who are raped will often become ostracized from their communities. Women who give birth to their one of their rapist’s children (in a country where the idea of a safe abortion laughable) may be welcomed back to communities, but only if they leave the child behind.
We are talking about systematic, genocidal rape.
As for the displaced? Between 70% and 80% of displaced persons in Darfur are women and children. (pdf)
Have we heard all of this before? Well, sure. But I’ve also heard about the murders and village razing before. I’ve read about the horrid conditions in refugee camps. I’ve heard it, and so have you, and yet Time felt that it was appropriate to mention all of these at relative length.
They also found room to talk about cattle and camels being stolen. They found time to talk to men in the camps. They found room for a sentence about how the men in this camp didn’t have enough cups to go around.
I’m not trying to trivialize the impact of these relatively smaller atrocities. The loss of cattle and camels can result in a total lack of transportation and food. It can lead to starvation. Not having enough supplies to meet your daily life needs is sad and should not be considered acceptable under any circumstances.
But sadder than the widespread gang rape of women and children?
What the hell is up, Time? Have you been hanging out with Heather MacDonald, and decided that just like the college rape crisis, the Darfur rape crisis doesn’t actually exist? Does widespread murder make the potentially wider-spread rape not an issue? Maybe you decided that the women deserved it, because no one made them leave the camp for firewood and it was their own choice to not want to starve or freeze to death?
Hey, I’m just asking the questions. Maybe the answer is much simpler than that: women just don’t need and/or deserve the same amount of attention that men do. It’s hard to cover all of those “special interest” groups when there are so many men — real people — to discuss. And it seems to me that your editorial board instituted a bitches ain’t shit policy a long, long time ago.
You can write to Time at firstname.lastname@example.org. I end up writing to them every couple of weeks, and it doesn’t seem to do much good. They never respond, never print my letters, and only very rarely print a letter with similar sentiments to the one that I sent. But hey, power in numbers and all that.