Sudan: Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences

July 18, 2004

Sudan: Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences

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"The women unequivocally stated their great fear of living in this location (Kailek) due to the daily and nightly harassment and sexual abuse of the Janjawid in town. They expressed how they feel 'imprisoned' and how the women and girls have been raped and sexually abused when leaving the IDP setting, while the men are being harassed and frequently beaten by the security forces. When asked, the women identified several of the rapists and abusers among the present group of armed elements. They explained how the perpetrators use to come to the setting during the night to abduct girls, bringing them to the nearby wadi where they would be raped."

The reported cases of rapes in such IDP settlements inside Darfur seem to be more numerous than those reported in the camps in Chad. The OHCHR, UN aid workers, independent journalists and foreign government or parliamentary officials who have been able to visit the region have all reported meeting women who have been raped and often given detailed accounts of such crimes. Most of the refugees interviewed in Chad by Amnesty International in May 2004 managed to flee to Chad soon after attacks on their villages. Even those who had fled to IDP sites in Darfur had not spent much time in these sites. Amnesty International believes that the number of women who have suffered rapes and other forms of sexual violence in Darfur is high. Given the cultural taboo that rape constitutes in the society in Darfur, another explanation for the high numbers of women who have remained in Darfur after suffering rape is that these women have stayed away from relatives who have fled to Chad because they are, or fear being, stigmatized.

While the situation of the Sudanese refugees in Chad is precarious, the situation of IDP civilians within Darfur itself is desperate. The towns and villages in which most of the estimated one million internally displaced people are currently located are under direct government control. According to testimonies by refugees as well as information Amnesty International received from several and cross-checked sources in Darfur, the local authorities do not intervene and thereby are complicit with the Janjawid who rape and torture, kill and physically assault the displaced population. The proximity of Janjawid military camps to villages and settlements where the displaced have gathered renders the situation highly dangerous for the many IDPs in Darfur.

4. The consequences of sexual violence on women and their communities

There are many consequences of rape which have immediate and long-term effects on women, beyond the actual physical violation it constitutes.

4.1 Stigma and ostracism towards survivors of rape

Rape in itself is a heinous human rights violation, but the victims are likely to suffer further because of the shame and the stigma associated to it. As some women told Amnesty International delegates in Chad in November 2003:

"Women will not tell you easily if they have been raped. In our culture, it is a shame. Women hide this in their hearts so that men don't hear about it."

Many women and men told Amnesty International that only women who are not married would be able to talk about rape, or that women who were raped would not dare to come to the refugee camps. This is the likely explanation for why so many women who have reportedly been raped are said to remain at the border between Chad and Sudan, or to have sought refuge in the IDP camps in Darfur, far from the eyes of their relatives and close community.

Pregnancy as a result of rape