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No, Sexual Violence Is Not ‘Cultural’

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Posted on June 26 2010 6:15 pm
Feminist Hawk is a superheroine. She is also an Associate Editor of NewsReal Blog, in charge of running The Feminist Hawks' Nest.
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by Lisa Shannon

A month into my first trip to eastern Congo, site of the deadliest conflict since World War II, I had heard plenty of horror stories — from forced cannibalism to the burning alive of the inhabitants of entire villages. I was no longer easily shocked. But one exchange with an aid worker stopped me cold.

I arrived in Baraka, a town on Lake Tanganyika that was overrun with Congolese soldiers and international aid workers, in February 2007. I asked a disheveled European woman working with the United Nations about security. She enthusiastically described her pet video project, to convince refugees in neighboring Tanzania that it was safe to return home.

“Foreign militias are gone,” she said. “Just rapes and looting for the moment. No attacks.”

Stunned, I asked, “You don’t consider rape a security threat?”

“Rape here is so common,” she said. “It’s cultural.”

That was the first of many times I would hear mass rape in Congo dismissed as “cultural.”

Continue reading at The New York Times.

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