Ottawa - Today marks the International Day for the elimination of violence against women. Although we are approaching the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and recently the United Nations supported the Responsibility to Protect, the persistent, and pernicious evil use of sexual violence against women and sometimes men is as pervasive as ever.
The worst example of this is the widespread use of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rape is being used not only to destroy the person, but to tear apart the fabric of societies and spread the deadly HIV virus. The consequences include the destruction of people's lives, the ostracism of the victims from their own communities and society, the increased spread of HIV that can't be treated in this conflict environment, the collapse of primary health care capacity, and the surge in the number of orphans.
In the DRC, women and sometimes men are raped with bayonets, and pieces of wood, leaving their gastrointestinal and reproductive systems damaged forever. In fact, rape is now being used as a weapon of mass destruction. In the Eastern part of the DRC lies the epicenter of rape, where up to 70% of women in some villages have been the victims of sexual violence.
So far the international community has demonstrated only a tacit interest in this, the worst humanitarian catastrophe since the Second World War. As we mark the International Day for the Elimination of violence against women, the international community must back up its words and intentions with real action to end the Congo's agony.
Unless these actions are taken now, rape will continue to be a weapon of mass destruction, and women and men will suffer horrific injuries and sometimes death through the use of this most violent of crimes. If we truly believe that we have a responsibility to protect, if we truly believe in saying never again to massive human rights abuses, then we must back up these words with an obligation to act and implement the solutions needed to stop the carnage.