About a week ago, the International Criminal Court announced that Fatou Bensouda would succeed Luis Moreno Ocampo as Chief Prosecutor. This could be big news, but you wouldn’t know it from The New York Times, who barely reported the announcement.
As a woman, as an African woman, she’s had it with waiting for the world to recognize violence against women as a crime against humanity.
According to Bensouda, part of the problem of addressing sexual and gender violence has been the logic of inevitability. By this logic, rape happens as an “incidental” and “necessary” part of the machinery of warfare. It’s like “tradition”. The word absolves practitioners, and everybody else, of responsibility as it cleanses the field of any history. Bensouda argues that the military use of sexual violence does have a history of change. For example, in recent years, it has begun to be used systematically as a weapon of war and as “part of the military machinery to fuel the fighting soldiers.”
But the core of the refusal to address sexual and gender violence is the refusal to care about women:
Outside a prison context, targets of gender crimes are overwhelmingly female. The victims of certain crimes, such as forced impregnation and forced abortion are exclusively women and girls. This may explain why the progress made globally in recognizing, prohibiting, and finally enforcing gender crimes perpetrated in armed combat has been extremely slow.
The world has been extremely slow to address sexual and gender crimes. Not ‘Africa’. Not ‘Africans’. The world. African women, like Bensouda and like the ICC women judges from Mali, Ghana, Kenya and Botswana, join with women around the world in being fed up. In an interview two years ago, Bensouda said, “I am speaking as an African woman… And the African woman’s voice is getting louder and louder, whether as advocate or whether as a victim.” Individually louder and louder. Collectively louder and louder.