In the Senate hearing yesterday morning, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) used her allotted time to discuss the disastrous and destabilizing effects of sexual violence and the use of rape as a weapon of war in Darfur. Furthermore, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) spoke with emotion about the difficult conditions that women are forced to endure in Darfur’s IDP camps. During a recent trip to Darfur, Corker said that he observed "women confined to small spaces," living in fear of attacks and further violence, and unable to leave the camps to collect firewood. Numerous senators asked Special Envoy Gration about how the needs of women were being met in the camps following the expulsion of international and Sudanese humanitarian organizations in March.
Sexual violence was also a focus in the hearing with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice this week. Speaking before the House of Representatives, Rice spoke powerfully about the prevalence of the use of rape as a weapon of war, saying that it was an important issue to her "as a woman and as a human being."
Continued attention to violence against women from Congress is commendable. More, however, must be done. Actions must be taken against sexual violence through the development of more robust protection and prevention mechanisms in places like Darfur and Congo and an end to impunity for the perpetrators of violence. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle are deeply concerned. Now is the time to translate that concern into action, and we’re hopeful that Secretary of State Clinton will return from her upcoming trip to Congo as a champion of this cause and will raise the profile of the horrific pattern of crimes against women.