Is your mobile phone contributing to rape?
- Published: 14 August 2010
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If you own a mobile phone or a computer, it’s likely that your money has contributed to the rape of women and girls as young as 10 months in Congo, writes Natalie Becquet.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 45,000 people die each month from hunger and disease resulting from the ongoing conflict between government forces and the Lord’s Liberation Army.
The DRC is the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or a girl, with hundreds of thousands of women raped since the conflict began in 1998.
Hundreds of young girls are abducted and forced into sexual slavery. From infants as young as 10 months to elderly women in their 80s – if you are a female you’re at risk of being brutally raped by soldiers.
If this weren’t horrifying enough, access to healthcare is so poor it may as well be non-existent.
Unskilled general practitioners are called upon to act as gynaecologists in tragically under-staffed hospitals in an attempt to repair the torn, ravaged bodies of baby girls that have been ripped apart my grown men. Eve Ensler, founder of the global movement to end violence against women and girls describes what is happening in the DRC as femicide.
"Before I went to the Congo, I’d spent the past 10 years working on V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. I’d traveled to the rape mines of the world--places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti, where rape has been used as a tool of war. But nothing I ever experienced felt as ghastly, terrifying and complete as the sexual torture and attempted destruction of the female species here. The violence is a threat to all; young girls and village elders alike are at risk. It is not too strong to call this a femicide, to say that the future of the Congo’s women is in serious jeopardy."
And it’s not just females that are at risk. Boys (and in some cases, girls) as young as five are kidnapped from their villages and forced to fight in the frontlines.
When these kids are not fighting for their lives, they’re forced to kill family members and other children to prove their loyalty. There are a lot of aid agencies trying to rescue them from their abductors, but it’s a long, slow process fraught with danger for those involved.
At last count, almost 5,400,000 people were dead as a direct result of this conflict, making it the deadliest since WW2.
Apart from the obvious humanitarian reasons, this may not seem like a global issue but it absolutely is.
You see, if you own a mobile phone or a computer, it’s likely that your money has contributed to the problem in the Congo.
Profits made from militia-controlled Congolese mines and trade routes are used to purchase weapons that cause unimaginable horror to women and children living in the DRC, and manufacturers are apparently unable to make sure that the components of their products aren’t made with conflict minerals.
According to Raise Hope For Congo:
“Profit from the mineral trade is one of the main motives for armed groups on all sides of the conflict in eastern Congo - the deadliest since World War II. Armed groups earn hundreds of millions of dollars per year by trading four main minerals: the ores that produce tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold.
“This money enables the militias to purchase large numbers of weapons and continue their campaign of brutal violence against civilians, with some of the worst abuses occurring in mining areas. The majority of these minerals eventually wind up in electronic devices such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers.
“Given the lack of a transparent minerals supply chain ... consumers have no way to ensure that their purchases are not financing armed groups that regularly commit atrocities, including mass rape.”
It is within the power of consumers to stop this war and save lives by demanding that the companies making gross amounts of money from technology ensure minerals used in their products are not originating from mines in conflict zones, but most people aren’t aware of.
The following websites provide more information on conflict minerals and how you can help the women and children of the Congo heal and live in safety.
Nathalie Becquet is associate editor at The Scavenger.