I wrote last week about the terrifying possibility that Colonel Gadhafi’s soldiers could be using rape as a weapon of war – and even exacerbating their efforts with Viagra. Now, Pascale Harter of the BBC is reporting on what happens to the victims of rape in Libya, especially the women who become pregnant as a result of the sexual attack. According to aid workers, many of these women are murdered by their families in honor killings.
“In Libya when rape occurs, it seems to be a whole village or town which is seen to be dishonoured,” Arafat Jamal, an employee of the United Nations’ refugee agency, explained.
The most distressing aspect of these horrible killings is the fact that the families think they are helping the women they murder – by protecting them from dishonor.
“To be seen naked and violated is worse than death for them,” said Hana Elgadi, who is part of a group of volunteers offering medical aid and HIV tests. “This is a region where women will not go out of the house without covering their face with a veil.”
Elgadi says that her group is offering abortions to women who have become pregnant as a result of rape, a practice which she says has been sanctioned by Islamic law.
More women desperately need medication for HIV after being raped by Gadhafi’s forces. The implications of systematic rape are clear – not only do they destroy families, causing parents to kill their daughters, they have long-term health implications for the women who do survive. Although as Harter’s article shows, there are significant challenges for the aid workers in Libya who are trying to help women escape honor killings and gain medical treatment, we need to do more to support them in their efforts to save Libya’s women.
Photo from B.R.Q.'s Flickr photostream.