How Darfuri Women Must Overcome Gendercide and Gender Based Violence

Recently, in terms of genocidal actions, one of the most prevalent weapons an oppressor group uses to torture their female victims is rape. While is it widely known that rape is used as a weapon in genocide, it is confusing to some about why this could be conceivably worse than the other methods of torment that Darfuri women are being subjected to. While rape targets women mainly, it affects the entire community that the women belong to. In Darfur, the Janjaweed, a group who attacks the Darfuris, uses rape because it is the most effective way for them to be able to demoralize the women of the African tribes. They wait until the women are isolated from a group, usually when they are collecting firewood or water. There are, more often than not, cases of women being attacked in refugee camps, which is even more horrific considering Darfuri women come to these camps to find a safe haven from their destroyed villages. Eric Reeves has categorized a good portion of the reports from Radio Dabanga to give an idea of the types of attacks occurring.

By placing this target on women, the Janjaweed and their partners are committing what is known as gendercide. Gendercide is a term that was created by Mary Anna Warren to highlight the outstandingly large number of female civilian deaths that are occurring throughout the world. She did not want to make it a separate category within genocide, but rather wanted to make sure that people were aware of the horrible crimes that are perpetrated toward women. Gendercide is not just for women, usually, the men are the main victims, but what it highlights is a type of mass killing that focuses solely on one gender of that society[1]. An idea that is similar to the term gendercide is gender based violence, or GBV. This is an issue that spans the spectrum of not just genocide, but of violence in genera towards any gender for any reason.

The consequence of rape is that is affects the whole societal system of the victims. It is what is called a “social death”, one that does not physically kill the victims, but makes them shells of people, scarring them mentally and forcing them to live with the horrible memory. Genocide is extremely personal, and the perpetrators take extra care to make sure they scar a society to a point that they will never recover. How then, can these women be helped and what is the right way to protect them, or if they have already been attacked, what is the best way they can be comforted and helped to overcome the trauma? The first priority is protection. This will be needed in both the local villages and around the refugee camps, both places where women seem to be targeted the most. The next important element is listening to the victim. The more we can understand the struggles of the victim, the more we are able to help them recover in the post-genocide era. For technicality purposes, a report from Harvard University actually was able to categorize steps that would be the best way to approach helping the female rape victims in Darfur. These steps cover elements such as setting up places in the camps where the women can safely report if they have been raped to gynecological services for women who may be pregnant as a result of the rape.

It is so important to understand the gravity that the impact of rape has on the women who are subjected to it in Darfur. One of the main issues Darfur Women Action Group looks to address is violence against women and the use of rape as a weapon of war, and while we may never be able to understand what these women have gone through, if we can comprehend how it does affect them, we can better help empower them to overcome the effects of the genocide.

By Genevieve Turcott, Outreach and Government Relations Intern

Genevieve is a student at James Madison University majoring in International Affairs and minoring in Humanitarian Affairs. She has an immense passion for human rights, especially ending genocide, and global development through education.

[1] Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction 2nd ed., Adam Jones, pp. 323