“To avoid getting raped, after 6 p.m., women are not allowed to go out of the house,” said Maria Bitondo, who said she was among three women attacked by a soldier last month. “With the soldiers here, no woman is safe to go out and walk. We do not even go to the bathroom at night.” On Monday, a coalition of 88 aid groups called the operation, which is supported by the United Nations, “a human tragedy” and urged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is to visit eastern Congo on Tuesday, to push for better civilian protection. Clinton has vowed to make the prevention of sexual violence a priority in Congo, where the United States pays about a quarter of the cost of U.N. peacekeeping efforts. – Congo’s Rape Epidemic Worsens During U.S.-Backed Military Operation
It’s the You talkin’ to me?, secretary of state edition.
Secretary Clinton, continuing her Africa trip, was not amused when the translation came across from a questioner asking her to respond on what her husband would think about Chinese financial contracts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, it seems the translation was screwed up and the questioner was asking Clinton about Obama, not her husband.
As you can see in the video, Clinton was ticked off at being asked what a male leader thought, especially when her purpose in this region is to draw a bull’s eye on the rape and torture of women in the Congo.
The United States Secretary of State obviously didn’t appreciate the misogyny, which is rampant in the Congo and other African nations, born out by the questioner expecting her to “channel” a male. Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley responded.
“The Secretary of State is going to Goma Tuesday, to draw attention to the plight of women who are victims of rape as a weapon of war” in Congo, he said. “She did react to what she heard,” Crowley explained. Even if the interpreter mixed up the translation, he said, “you can’t separate the question from the setting.”
As the Washington Post story quoted at the top reports, Congolese President Joseph Kabila has declared “zero tolerance” regarding sexual assaults and violence against women, but so far it’s just words.
There can be no doubt that Clinton came off harsh in this setting. A little righteous indignation from the most powerful female persona on the planet was in order, especially considering women in the Congo are in danger most of the hours of their waking and sleeping lives.
CNN reports that after the event Clinton and the questioner “seemed to have reached an understanding,” according to Crowley.
But seriously, you cannot bring basic human rights to women in places like the Congo if the men there don’t wake up to the respect women deserve, highlighting how far we have to go if not even the U.S. secretary of state is treated with respect.