A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
humiliated and women are raped still to humiliate the men in their communities (Nabukeera-Musoke H. 2007).
Women’s sexuality remains a taboo, unspoken of, as if it does not exist. African women are confused with respect to how their identities are shaped and influenced by negative attitudes, values, customs, traditions and prejudices. Much of this is because of our cultures, religions, our past and current history of continuous economic exploitation and current global patriarchal policies. The systematic denial and unbreakable silence on sexuality and sexual related issues is a conspiracy against women as independent human beings. Due to the way we are socialised, it is still difficult for women to discus their own bodies. Furthermore, discussing our bodies is negotiated between the public and the private. In May 2005 when the play the Vagina Monologues43 was to be hosted in the country, the Ugandan government, for instance, banned the women of Uganda from discussing their bodies, sexuality, the sexual pleasure and/or abuse they experience. Women’s sexually remains linked to immorality. Thus even when women get raped, they will not talk about it or report it. The victim gets blamed, stigmatised and punished by society for being raped. This testimony from a rape survivor in Burundi illustrates this:
“Then the others came to where I was in the room and they raped me. There were three of them, I kept quiet about it. You see in those days, when such things happened to a girl, she would keep it a secret right at the bottom of her heart, so that no one would know what really happened. If you shared your sorrows with someone who you considered a friend, she would start laughing and making fun of you so that when you passed by everyone would point a finger at you, saying ‘She was taken by the rebels’ or ‘She was raped by so-and-so’. That’s why I said nothing to anyone. It stays inside me like a personal secret”.
We need to break the silence on sexuality in Africa. Not only sexual violence in war or post conflict time but also in normal times. Women’s sexuality is dialectically related to women’s integrity and humanity. It is futile to work on women’s advancement and equality without working on sexuality. Breaking the stereotyping of the victims is an important part of the social transformation we have to undertake. Operationalising international and regional standards and norms espoused by conventions and protocols on women’s rights is an important step.
In most discussions of gender and conflict, gender tends to be equated with women, but we know little about male gender roles in relation to violent conflict. Male identities, the link between masculinity and violence, and the particular situation of young males have received very little attention. Men are the primary perpetrators of
Vagina Monologues is a play written by American Feminist Eve Ensler that explores women’s sexuality and abuse that has been going around the world creating a platform for women to talk about their sexuality. 3