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House Passes Resolution Against Sexual Violence in Darfur

On October 29, the House passed, by voice vote, a resolution (H. Res. 726) regarding sexual violence in Darfur. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved the measure on October 23 (see The Source, 10/26/07).

Sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the resolution contains a number of findings including;

  • during war, rape, and sexual violence are often used systematically as a weapon of intimidation, humiliation, terror, and ethnic cleansing;
  • since 2003, mass rape committed by members of the Sudanese armed forces and affiliated militias with the support of the government of Sudan has been a central component of the government of Sudan’s violence and ethnic cleansing in Darfur;
  • women and girls leaving internally displaced persons camps in Darfur and refugee camps in eastern Chad to seek firewood, water, or outside sources of income are often attacked and subjected to rape and sexual violence perpetrated by members of the Sudanese armed forces and associated janjaweed militia and other armed combatants;
  • under Sudanese law, victims of rape have virtually no legal recourse and may, in fact, be charged with the crime of zina, or sexual intercourse outside of marriage, punishable by one hundred lashes if the victim is unmarried and death by stoning if she is married; and
  • on August 20, 2007, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported on attacks, abductions, and systematic rapes of women in Darfur and the resulting ‘grave health risks from the consequent physical injuries and psychological trauma,’ and declared that these acts may ‘constitute war crimes’: Speaking in support of her resolution, Rep. DeLauro said, “There may be no greater violation of a woman’s or a girl’s basic human rights than when she is a victim of rape or sexual violence…As these atrocities occur in the Darfur conflict region, we must ask ourselves, again, when will we learn from history? The answer, it seems, is not soon enough for the untold number of Darfuri women and girls beaten, kidnapped, and raped, often multiple times by multiple attackers, and held as sex slaves by the Sudanese armed forces, the janjaweed, and other armed combatants…” She continued, “The resolution before us today calls for action. It calls on the president and it calls on the international community to do the following…develop within the State Department and USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] a Women and Girls of Darfur Initiative to, among other things, provide victims and potential victims of rape in Darfur, eastern Chad, and the Central African Republic with all essential and quality medical supplies and health care services, psychological counseling, and legal advice;…ensure that a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force is deployed that can properly protect women and girls from, and respond to, acts of rape and sexual violence; and…through the U.N. Security Council, find Sudan in noncompliance with its obligations to protect women and girls and call on [Sudan] to bring perpetrators of rape and sexual violence to justice. Our State Department and USAID must make this a top priority. As the rape and murder in Darfur goes on, the perpetrators of these atrocities go unpunished…Too much is at stake to allow these atrocities to continue.”

    Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said, “We now have a strong resolution that effectively focuses much-needed attention on the horrific reality that has befallen women and young girls in Darfur without contradicting our U.S. policy. Since the beginning of this conflict, Sudanese Armed Forces, janjaweed militias, and other rebel factions have used rape as a weapon of war. Despite the conclusions of the Darfur Peace Agreement and the deployment of peacekeepers, these attacks have continued unabated. The pattern of rape and sexual violence is widespread and systematic, and it seems that no one is spared. Elderly women, pregnant mothers, even girls as young as ten years of age have fallen victim to the rapist thugs who attack with immunity. This horrific practice must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. I fully support efforts to provide essential health and psychosocial services to these women and girls, as well as efforts to hold those responsible for such attacks accountable for their actions.”

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