Sexual violence in Mali casts shadow over peace efforts

Bloomberg reports: Rebels who had conquered northern Mali offered to pay the equivalent of $14 for a 13-year-old girl. When her family said no, they took her anyway.

A week later, she died in captivity, after she was repeatedly raped by a group of armed men.

That incident in April is one of hundreds of documented cases compiled by the United Nations in the past year that shed light on the sexual violence unleashed by insurgents — mostly Touareg separatists rather than al-Qaeda-linked Islamists — during their occupation of a sparsely populated and inhospitable Mali region the size of Texas.

Nine months later, the rebels have melted away into the desert as French intervention troops advance. For the women of the farming and cattle-herding communities, the prospect is that yet another peace deal will ignore the record of rape used as a weapon of war.

“The question of sexual violence is not treated as an urgent question, unfortunately,” Hannah Armstrong, an analyst on security in West Africa. The same Touareg fighters now clamoring for negotiations “carried out raid-style attacks during which animals were stolen, slave-caste women raped repeatedly,” she said in an interview in Bamako, the Malian capital.

A total of 211 cases of sexual violence — including gang rape, sexual slavery, forced marriages and torture — were committed during house-to-house operations or at checkpoints during 2012, according to the Office of the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. [Continue reading…]

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