News from Libya this morning suggests a new low in the country’s civil war. An ICC report accuses government forces of using rape as a weapon. It’s a wretched fact that women become even more vulnerable during such malevolent hostilities.
According to a recent Oxfam report, as many as 14 women are raped every day in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, almost half of them in broad daylight and more than half in their own homes. A brutal civil war centred on a conflict over minerals that are used in our mobile phones. The rebels and the government troops in this brutal conflict now use rape as a weapon of war to punish civilians.
The victims face a terrible stigma and this new study reveals that more than half of the women waited at least a year before seeking treatment. The accelerator and key facet to the Libyan headline is a very intriguing ingredient that has been added to the narrative. As if rape weren’t horrific enough, the fact that it’s being used as a punishment was another emotional hook to attract our attention. This captivating facet to the tale has risen to hold centre stage. The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said yesterday that he is investigating claims that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi provided Viagra to Libyan soldiers to promote the rape of women during the current conflict.
If this is true, it further adds to any decent person’s outrage at the continuing horror on the ground in Libya. However, if it’s just a lurid side bar to ensure the story has necessary adhesive, what does this suggest? Rape alone is not a strong enough message to create headlines? So does the global audience require more shocking aspects to be heaped on a story coming out of Libya in order to take notice?
Is it a requirement for information warriors and PR folk to spice up a conflict narrative. Must it be played out like some Hollywood blockbuster? Perhaps the sickening facts are not distressing enough? Are we a global audience now – unshockable and anesthetised by a generation of persistent disturbing pictures beamed into our homes 24/7? The Viagra line is pretty powerful but is it just a case of a great story and not a fact sped across the globe. Speed and truth can be a torrid and melancholy synthesis.