Women’s International Perspective hosted its first ever speaker panel on Friday April 4, 2008, at the Monterey Institute of International Study. The organization, barely one year old at the time of the event offers a woman’s perspective of violence against women and children around the globe.
Joyce Laker, a human rights worker and women’s advocate in Uganda shared her experiences about violence against women and children. Uganda, known for its child soldiers has been riddled with violence and conflict for decades. Forced to join the armed resistance of the Lord’s Resistance Army, children as young as ten years old are often forced to kill their own parents first, to sometimes drink their blood or cannibalize their bodies, and then enter into a never ending cycle of violence.
As sociologist and scholar Riane Eisler points out, violence against women and children around the world is actually, “normal,” and calls it, “the most ubiquitous human rights violation in the world.” As evidenced by Joyce Laker’s experience in Uganda, Riane Eisler’s point carries great weight.
Joyce Laker shared alarming statistics representing reported sexual violence. Throughout Uganda, anywhere from 26 to 52 percent of the female population has experienced sexual violence. However, as Laker points out, these numbers are likely not accurate as the reporting and investigation of a rape for women is costly and tedious at its best, and further degrading at its worst. Women are forced to pay police to conduct the investigations at the rates of 3.00 for the police to come and take the report, 10.00 to provide transportation for the police to come take the report and 20.00 to provide transportation for the perpetrator to the police station.
These human rights violations and atrocities are rarely, if ever reported in United States mainstream media and do not gain the attention they deserve. As American media outlets and politicians continue to ignore developments in Africa, the Bush Administration has dramatically ramped up the militarization of the continent since 2002, flushing the area with over $130 million dollars in military sales, financing, and training expenditures for what the US considers strategic for the “war on terror.”
However, as the think tank Foreign Policy In Focus rightly queries, the fundamental question for many is whether the US will utilize this increased military presence to support freedom, self determination, growth, prosperity, and accountability on behalf of the majority of nearly one billion people in Africa or if this new initiative will instead serve to oversee surrogate nations whose leadership is accountable first to U.S security and economic interest. (Gerald Le Melle, “Africa Policy Outlook 2008,” (Waahsington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, February 7, 2008).
Under the Bush administration, AFRICOM’s (Africa Command) structure would “place humanitarian work previously done by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development under the directive of the Department of Defense.” (Le Melle 2008) As evidenced by circumstances on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, and numerous countries around the globe, US interests rarely coincide with human rights, the sickness of the global society in regards to the rights of women and children around the globe should determine which countries the US does and does not call an ally.
As Le Melle points out in the Africa Policy Outlook conclusion, “Despite being the most stretched out campaign in American history, the 2008 presidential election is marked by the typical absence of any serious discussion of Africa. It is as if Africa has already been ceded to the Department of Defense and therefore out of the view of the American public. In contrast with the accelerating militarization of the U.S Africa relations described above, this silence is deafening.”