Let's make Sudan safe for little girls like Roa

Women and children are raped in front of their families, to break minds as well as bodies

Share

As fathers throughout Britain open their cards on Sunday morning, imagine this. You and your family are sitting down to a meal when you hear gunshots. Moments later, you're surrounded by militia pointing AK47s. You, the father, are given a choice: "We either rape your daughter or kill your son. You decide." Roa, the daughter of the man this happened to, was four at the time.

The UN has recognised rape as a deliberate weapon of war in Sudan since 2005. Yet, it steadfastly fails to provide adequate protection for the victims or consequences for the perpetrators. Angelina Jolie, a UN special envoy, and William Hague co-chaired a summit in London last week to end sexual violence in conflict. Roa and her family could not be there.

Driven from their homes and their livelihoods, they, like an estimated four million others, sought refuge in a displaced persons camp. But as Sudan's government persistently obstructs humanitarian aid to the camps, Roa's nightmare is far from over.

Every day, women and children in Darfur, in western Sudan, face the prospect of being raped. Leaving their homes and camps to find food and firewood is hazardous. It is where more than 80 per cent of the rapes occur.

Some women refuse medical help after being raped and hide their ordeal to spare their family. Others are "branded" by their attackers so that they will never be free from "shame". Rape is an integral, strategic component of the genocide in Darfur. Women and children are routinely raped in front of their families, breaking minds as well as bodies, in the attempt to crush their wills and erode family structures in which virginity and chastity are sacrosanct.

A few years ago, I co-organised a series of global demonstrations for Darfur. One focused entirely on rape as a weapon of war. We asked the women in the camps what the international community could do to help.

They wanted whistles so that they could raise the alarm if attacked while foraging for firewood. Citizens around the world simultaneously demonstrated outside their parliaments, blowing whistles. We also asked for more UN peacekeepers to protect civilians, for groups of policewomen from African nations to accompany the firewood-gathering trips, for rape counselling and increased medical treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Seven years on, there's no sign of the African policewomen, and efforts to provide medical treatment and counselling have been obstructed by the Sudanese government. More peacekeepers have been deployed to the region, with a mandate to protect civilians, yet the raping rampage continues undeterred. We blow our whistles, said one woman, but no one comes.

The promises made at the London summit last week must be kept. We owe Roa that.

Tess Finch-Lees is a human rights specialist and Sudan campaigner

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Ellen E Jones
Scientists have discovered the perfect cheese for pizzas (it's mozzarella)  

Life of pie: Hard cheese for academics

Simmy Richman
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution