"Still, we in the West too often find it easier to perceive rape as an accepted part of an unfamiliar culture rather than as a tool of war that we could help banish. Too often, the enemy becomes all Congolese men rather than men with guns terrorizing the Congolese people. By casting the chaos and violence as “men vs. women” or dismissing the crisis as “cultural,” we do a profound injustice to Congolese men. Rather than help, we send an implicit insult: It’s a pity, but, well…it’s just who you people are. [...]
Any Congolese will tell you rape is not “traditional.” It did occur in Congo before the war, as it does everywhere. But the proliferation of sexual violence came with the war. Militias and Congolese soldiers alike now use sexual violence as a weapon. Left unchecked, sexual violence has festered in Congo’s war-ravaged east. This does not make rape cultural. It makes it easy to commit. There is a difference. [...]
“Cultural relativism legitimizes the violence and discredits the victims, because when you accept rape as cultural, you make rape inevitable,” [...]
When we blame all Congolese men for sexual violence, not only do we imply that rape is inherent to the African landscape, we avoid critical questions, particularly regarding the role that we in the West play.[...]
When we label rape in Congo “cultural,” we let ourselves off the hook. And that is a cultural issue. Ours."
Lisa Shannon, in the New York Times*, via the beautifully-named A Life Well Loved blog.
*dammit, i wanted to provide a link for you to read the whole thing but now it says subscribers only.