Central African Republic: Suffering of rape victims continues

Nearly five years after Congolese rebels introduced rape as a psychological weapon in the Central African Republic (CAR), individual victims and the nation as a whole are still dealing with the fallout.
Women and girls of all ages, some younger than six years, some older than 60 were not spared. Now, many married women face divorce; others have contracted HIV/AIDS; some have had babies.
Sayo, is the founder and chairwoman of L'Organisation pour la Compassion et le Developpement des Familles en Dtresse (OCODEFAD), which aims to take legal action against rapists and their accomplices, create income-generating activities for the victims, and advocate for the women's dignity. She says the NGO has registered 800 victims of rape and 16 conflict born babies, and has been the only organization caring for victims since Kolingba's attempted coup. OCODEFAD has also documented 140 men, who were sodomised or forced into sexual intercourse with female rebels: acts intended to humiliate, debase and stigmatize them.

Most rape victims say they are still shamed and rejected by their communities, and many try to avoid humiliation by staying indoors; many girls have dropped out of school because insensitive classmates laugh, rather than sympathise, with their ordeal; older victims feel ostracized by their neighbours, husbands and relatives. Fana Moussa, 26, says she can no longer marry because men avoid her and she is viewed as the "wife of the Banyamulenge," - wife of the rebel soldier who raped her.

As a Muslim, Moussa says her rejection is near total - her husband no longer wants her, and other Muslims say she has violated the Koran, even though she is a victim of rape. "She is impure and there is no question of marrying her or even having sexual relations with her - it would be sacrilege for a good Muslim to live in marriage with her," said Hassan, a neighbour.

The ordeal of rape victims is being perpetuated: ostracism has forced households to break up; family support structures have fallen apart - rape victims often have little or no money and find it difficult just to get food; some children have dropped out of school because parents can no longer pay the fees. According to Sayo there has been no recent tangible aid to rape victims from a government that owes its civil servants 40 months in salary arrears.

The government has said it is trying to get the International Court of Justice in The Hague to review the case of rape victims. With the exception of help from the UN Development Programme in 2003, no international organization had so far paid attention to the plight of the victims, Sayo commented. As a result, HIV positive rape victims are dying because they cannot afford anti-retroviral medication.

Source: IRIN News, 19.8.05, via IPPF News.
Website: www.ippf.org