Friday, February 11, 2011

What about the Men??

What about the men you may ask? The husbands of rape victims, the fathers of children who are dying or recruited into militia? Men are most certainly there and part of the picture. The story doesn't get much better for them though.

 Many men in the DRC are good fathers, good men who long to be able to defend their family and defend their role as husband, father and provider. Unfortunately the law is set by he who holds the biggest machete. There are a few possible outcomes.

 Firstly, recruitment of young men/boys is common. They're small - easy to hide, don't eat much and at some levels are dispensable to the various armies. At ages of 9 or 10, they are forced to join these groups. Forced? Some people think there is always a choice - and of course, in some sense, there is. One recruitment tactic is for a militia group to descend on a school full of children and at gun point ask the children who will join. Classmates will watch their fellow students be tortured and killed and then be given the option. Join your friends who have died, or join the militia. Is that a choice? Both girls and boys are taken, however the girls are generally taken for the purpose of becoming "soldier wives" or essentially sex slaves. Some of these boys are able to leave the army by the time they are in their late teens. Their accounts and tellings are available to read/view online. Many of them recount the horrors they were party to, the women they were forced to rape (again you may ask, forced? But if you hear many of their accounts, yes. It was force). These young men will never reintegrate back into their communities. They are broken and hardened by the brutalities they have experienced.

 For men who are older and have families, they really have less of a choice. They may be present as their wives and daughters are brutalized and any sign of resistance might often mean death for them. The number of widows in the Congo is incredibly high. My sister C is a widow. I can't imagine the circumstances that may have led to that.

 Thirdly, the men are caught up in a culture of honour and at times when a wife is sexually violated, they feel the need to abandon her. I have read accounts and watched video tellings of women describing how their husbands felt they had somehow brought their rape upon themselves. So, not only is the woman dealing with the emotional and physical repercussions of the rape, she must now work to care for  herself and her children without the support of a husband.

There are groups working in the congo to provide for child soldiers who have escaped or who have managed to earn their freedom as an older teen. There is so much need here. 

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