Women and the Conflict in Darfur
Darfur, western Sudan, has been described by the then United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, as the world's greatest humanitarian crisis". Women have been especially vulnerable to the escalating violence during the 6 year conflict with harrowing accounts of rape being reported in very high numbers.
Background: the conflict
Conflict eruped in February 2003. The conflict is between the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed and rebel groups. The Janjaweed is a Sudanese militia group recruited mostly from the Afro-Arab Abbala tribes of the northern Rizeigat region in Sudan; these tribes are mainly camel-herding nomads. The rebel groups, notably the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, are recruited primarily from the non-Arab Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit ethnic groups. The Sudanese government, while publicly denying that it supports the Janjaweed, is accused of providing financial assistance to the militia, and of participating in joint attacks targeting civilians.
Over the past six years, despite international intervention from the United Nations and international powers, including Europe and the United States, the conflict continues. On 31 August 2006, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1706 which called for a new 26,000-troop UN peacekeeping force called UNAMID to supplant or supplement a poorly funded and ill-equipped 7,000-troop African Union Mission in Sudan peacekeeping force. Sudan strongly objected to the resolution and said that it would see the UN forces in the region as foreign invaders. The following day, the Sudanese military launched a major offensive in the region.
In March 2007 the UN mission accused Sudan's government of orchestrating and taking part in "gross violations" in Darfur and called for urgent international action to protect civilians there.
On 14 July 2008, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), filed ten charges of war crimes against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, charges that included three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity, and two of murder.
Women in Darfur
The United Nations and many international organisations have reported high levels of rape of women in Darfur. Rape has been described as "party of every day life" for girls and women in Darfur. A 2004 Amnesty International report found that
"rape and other forms of sexual violence in Darfur are being used as a weapon of war in order to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear and displace women and their communities. These rapes and other sexual violence constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity."
The Amnesty International report found that women and girls as young as 8 were being raped and used as sex slaves in the conflict area. In some cases the Janjawid have raped women in public, in front of their husbands, relatives or the wider community. Rape is used to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear upon, displace and persecute the community to which they belong.
Pamela Shifman, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) adviser on violence and sexual exploitation who visited Darfur in 2004 found that:
"Rape is used as a weapon to terrorize individual women and girls, and also to terrorize their families and to terrorize entire communities. No woman or girl is safe.” 
- Report on violence against women in Darfur: 'Nowhere to Turn: Failure to Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women': http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/sudan/news/nowhere-to-turn.pdf
- Gender Equality in Sudan
- HIV/AIDS, Women and Conflict
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