Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eman Al-Obeidi: international community must take action on rape and other violence against women

We still don't know what has become of Eman Al-Obeidi, the woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel last weekend to tell journalists that she had been gang raped by 15 Gadaffi soldiers at a checkpoint.

Ms Al-Obeidi, who comes from Benghazi, was then bundled into a car by various Government thugs and hasn't been seen since. The Gadaffi regime has sought to dismiss her as a mentally ill drunk and prostitute when in fact she is a lawyer. It was reminiscent of Saif Gadaffi's dismissal of the protesters in Benghazi as drug addicts. They said she was safe back with her family, yet Al Jazeera's interview with her mum told a very different story. 

I'm fairly certain that Eman Al-Obeidi is not the only woman to have experienced this sort of horrendous brutality. She must have known that telling her story to a room full of journalists would not end well for her. We're still a long way from rape being taken seriously in these countries under normal circumstances, but it being used as torture by representatives of the Government is a whole different ball game. She showed incredible courage by doing what she did as it will hopefully help other women.

I'm not convinced that the international community is doing enough to tackle this violent brutality and violation of women (and I'm sure it must happen to men as well). We see it being used by rulers as a form of torture, and as a homophobic hate crime in South Africa. 

Sexual violence should never be tolerated and the perpetrators, and those who turn a blind eye to these crimes, need to be brought to justice. There has to be an increased international effort to wipe out these crimes and help the victims.

The way we report and discuss rape was highlighted in a very good article in yesterday's Guardian, called Rape is not a Compliment, taking to task some of the shamefully ignorant reporting of rape. Many thanks to my friend Amy Rodger for highlighting it.

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