The UN resolution to classify rape as a method of war is a victory for the thousands of individual rape survivors and organisations like ours that have campaigned for official recognition of rape as torture and persecution.
Our petition (attached) with this demand has been circulating since October 2006 and collected thousands of signatures, including from prominent people like Caroline Moorhead, Gareth Peirce, Juliet Stevenson and Benjamin Zephaniah.
Official figures show that 1 in 3 women in Democratic Republic of Congo have been raped. An estimated 50-70% of women seeking asylum in Britain are rape survivors. Yet the British government routinely sends women and girls back to the countries they fled claiming it is safe for them to relocate. The Home Office never follows up on what happens to those they deport. Three women in the All African Women’s Group – the self-help group of women asylum seekers based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre, with whom we work closely – were sent back and suffered further rape. Having managed to return, two were finally granted refugee status and one is currently making a fresh claim. A number of other women are currently under threat of removal.
The UN resolution calls for the “cessation of all acts of sexual violence against civilians”. We are glad for this, but UN member states should come clean on rape by its own peace-keeping troops who stand accused of raping and killing civilians in DR Congo, Haiti and Sierra Leone, and of standing by while aid agencies perpetrate similar atrocities.
We note that this resolution is sponsored by the US which is responsible for the deaths of millions of women, children and men in Iraq, through sanctions and warfare, and for widespread rape in prisons and in the community, including by its own troops and prison guards. The systematic dehumanisation of war has always included the rape of civilians. When will resolutions against such acts of violence lead to effective sanctions against the perpetrators?
Rape survivor wins the right to stay after eight years.
Ms N from Angola just learned that she has won full refugee status. She claimed asylum in April 2000 having fled Angola because of her brother’s involvement in UNITA. Ms N’s family became the victims of constant raids and in 1999 she was arrested and detained for six months, and raped. She escaped to the UK but as a result of negligent legal representation she was refused asylum. She was sent back to Angola in 2003 where she was immediately detained and raped again. She escaped when her family in Britain arranged to bribe one of the guards. On her return to Britain 2004, she was again detained. Her asylum claim was fast tracked in detention – an adjudicator accepted that she had been returned and raped in detention but concluded that because he could find no “credible reason” for Ms N’s detention, there were no grounds for believing that she would be raped again if returned again! Ms N spent almost 13 months in UK detention centres and it has taken over eight years of struggle for her to win the right to protection. BWRAP who are supporting Ms N say “it’s scandalous that she was ever detained and sent back. The government must be held to account for what happened to Ms N and other women like her”.
Women from All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) and Women Against Rape are available for interviews
Call: 020 7482 2496 or 07980 659 831 for further details