Update [2005-5-8 17:53:12 by Plutonium Page]: I changed my mind. The folks in the comments convinced me that we need to talk about this, even if it is shocking. Oh, and please don't hit the recommend button. The only way I could preserve the comments was to promote my own diary.
Whether male or female, if you call yourself a feminist but you don't appreciate the plight of the women in this story, you are not a real feminist. You don't know what "women's rights" are until you read this story.
If you only want happy stories of fertile women in their comfortable American homes on Mother's Day, stop reading right now. If you are content to think that we, as a nation, are doing our best to promote human rights in the world, stop reading right now.
However, if you want to know what's going on in another part of the world, a war-torn part of the world, a place called DR Congo, turn the virtual page.
And, here's the story, from the pages of Ms. Magazine, about what has happened to the women there:
So she traded bananas and peanuts until she'd saved $1.50 in Congolese francs, then set out for Bukavu. She walked with balled-up fabric clenched between her thighs, to soak up blood that had been oozing from her vagina for two years, since she had been gang-raped by Rwandan militia soldiers who plundered her village in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Finally, she arrived at Panzi Hospital.
Here, Thérèse takes her place in line, along with 80 women, waiting for surgery to rebuild her vagina. Dr. Denis Mukwege, Panzi's sole gynecologist and one of two doctors in the eastern Congo who can perform such reconstructive surgeries, can repair only five women a week. The air is thick with flies. It reeks from women with fistula: rips in the vaginal wall where rape tore out chunks of flesh separating the bladder and rectum from the vagina. Yet Thérèse, 47, is happier than she's been in years.
"Until I came here, I had no hope I could be helped," she says.
Across the DRC are tens of thousands of women like this: physically ravaged, emotionally terrorized, financially impoverished. Except for Thérèse and a few fortunate others, these women have no help of any kind: Eight years of war have left the country in ruins, and Congolese women have been victims of rape on a scale never seen before.
The article goes on to mention that rape is used as a weapon, a very powerful weapon. Men are raped as well as women.
More specifics on the clinic:
Nzigire believes rape has been a cheap, simple weapon for all parties in the war, more easily obtainable than bullets or bombs: "This violence was designed to exterminate the population," she says quietly.
And, as you can imagine, many of the women are infected with HIV because they were raped:
"I think it was a large majority of the women here who were raped, almost all of them. But I can't help them with just my bare hands," he says. When he decided, late last year, to consult with sexual-violence victims, more than 100 women turned up the first morning.
"I had nothing, not even antibiotics, to give them." Not that antibiotics would have helped much: "Most cases were traumatization of the genitals: These women had been raped with a tree branch or the barrel of a gun, or a bayonet. When you see a woman who was forced by 10 men -- the trauma..."
There are UN peacekeepers there, but as you may know, some have contributed to the sexual exploitation - and often assaults - of the women.
I'd add more, but I really can't. The article speaks for itself. Maybe a contribution to Amnesty International might be in order right now.