War Causes More Suffering for Women
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War affects a population as a whole but women seem to suffer the most whether on the war front or civilians. However, the worst affected of all are women who are ordinary citizens. Women suffer during the war and after the war as some are left widowed and without any inheritance. This paper aims to focus on the suffering of women during the war and the aftermath such as sexual harassment, violence, deprivation, loss of livelihoods, and death. An example of such situations is a suffering and a plight of women living in rebel affected regions of Africa. Militia and rebel movements have become a common nuisance in many parts of Africa especially West, Central and North-East regions of Africa. In the Central and North-East parts, the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) has remained dominant and extensive since its formation in 1987. Led by the self proclaimed spiritual leader Joseph Kony, LRA insurgents have strongly dominated districts such as Kitgum, Gulu, and Pader in Northern Uganda, and other countries such as Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. However, their amativeness and atrocious acts of human rights infringements (consisting of mutilation, abduction, murder, child-sex slavery, female genital mutilation and forcing children to become soldiers hence participating in hostilities) have not been without opposition. The National army and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) have been in war against the LRA turning the Acholiland into a war zone.
This war has caused great suffering to women in the affected districts of Acholi- Kitgum, Gulu, and Pader, and of Apac, Kabermaido, Lira, Katakwi, Teso sub regions and Soroti in Lango region. Whenever rebels attack the villages, women have to run and hide leaving their children and homes at the merciless encounter of the rebels. However, sometimes they are unlucky to get a chance to escape and they face the wrath of the rebels in forms of rape, beatings and abductions. The rebels rape women as their families watch terming it as retribution for supporting government forces. Young women are abducted and made sex slaves for the militia or are forced to be wives to the rebels. This exposes them to venereal diseases such as HIV/AIDS and results to unplanned pregnancies. Women infected with HIV/AIDS due to rape live stressful life of regrets and are unable to get access to proper diet and health care because of war. When they are fortunate enough to escape or be released back to the community with such pregnancies, they are stigmatized and considered outcasts. The born children from such pregnancies are considered a curse because they are sired by rebel fathers. Raped women are subjects of quarrels in homes and sometimes they are left or chased away by their husbands. War also creates a state of insecurity and criminals take advantage of this and rape women since there is no stable judicial system during such a time. Even the National Army and UPDF officers, who are supposed to protect the civilians, are reported to harass and rape women (Kiapi, 2009).
Women are also suffering increased marital rape and are considered a property of their spouses during this period of war in the region. This may be contributed by the stressful, harsh and challenging psychological conditions that their husbands are subjected to by the war. Unfortunately in Africa men are the ones in control when it comes to sexuality. The culture and religion stipulate that a woman's body is not hers, and she has no say when it comes to sexuality. Consequently, this affects the power relations between husbands and wives even in marriage. Institutions such as the National Association of Women Judges of Uganda (NAWJ) endeavor to address and solve these issues affecting women. The "Jurisprudence of Equality in a Time of HIV/AIDS" program endeavors to offer advanced training packages for Uganda's judges and magistrates on the linkage between violent behavior against women, property and ownership rights and the soaring HIV/AIDS epidemic. It also campaigns to perk up women's access to fair dealing in post-conflict cases (Kiapi, 2009).
This war has led to displacement of people, and some internally displaced persons (IDPs), among them women that have settled in peri-urban villages, in the outskirts Kampala. In the village of “Acholi Quarters” on Kireka Hill, the displaced women spend their day-time breaking stones in the quarry under the scorching sun for a wage of just $1.30 a day. Some of the women work with their young ones tied to their backs. These forsaken women and widows are experiencing sheer poverty and are struggling to survive. They cannot dare go back to their war- torn homelands, and the dark memories of the attacks still haunt and disturb them (Kiapi, 2009).
The war has affected men psychologically and socially. Men come home drunk and descend on their wives with violence (wife battering) and marital rape. Women are left with physical injuries and are disturbed psychologically. Women are humans too and naturally have moods, but the culture in this region dictates they cannot deny their husbands sex hence they are forced to do so. Women are scared that their daughters might go through the same marital hostilities once they get married. When such cases are reported to the police, women are shunned away by the police terming such as domestic problems. Women are also scared of the police because some ask for sexual favors/bribes or even sexually harass the same women (Kiapi, 2009).
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Many women have endured the pain of losing their children to the LRA insurgents and some have lost hope to ever reconnect with them again. Some women are also widowed upon the murder of their husbands by the militia. They are burdened by the heavy task of fetching for their children and the orphans left by relatives. Though, in some regions, normalcy has resumed, women have to walk for long distances to look for food or at least casual labor. Widows have a hard time putting their children through school since they do not have a proper and stable income source. They have no help since the people around them are also in the same situation. Such hardships have led some women to result to prostitution as a way of earning an income (Kiapi, 2009).
In conclusion, although peace negotiations have started and peace restored in some areas, women are still dealing with the aftermath. Some are still subjects to gender based violence while some are coming to terms with the fact of living with HIV/AIDS or even widowed. The sexual brutalities such as female genital mutilation and rape have left many women with psychological, surgical and gynecological complications. Some have mental illnesses and others may never be able to conceive again due to reproductive complications. Women are, therefore, the most hard hit when it comes to war.
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