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Human rights evolved from Cyrus the great who decided to free all his slaves making its way through different regimes and world wars. Finally in 1948 Eleanor Roosevelt signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration guarantees everyone 30 human rights to everyone. One of those rights is our right not be discriminated against – but people are discriminated against all the time on the basis of sex, caste and even color. One of the rights is not be tortured but civilians are tortured and even raped during wartime.
One of the most heartbreaking events of rape took place was in the 90’s. In the early 90’s the world saw the Bosnian war erupt. In the wake of the events that took place during the war one realizes the amount of violence and injustice that took place against the civilians especially women. Muslim and Croatian women were raped by the Serbian military in so called “women’s rooms” by the thousands. The men would enter the room in groups and repeatedly rape the women. They would curse at them and sometimes even urinate on them. Being treated like objects of pleasure rather than humans dehumanized women. After the war ended the United Nations estimated that 20,000 to 50,000 women were raped. In 1995, the war ended but no women stood up to testify of all the rapes that happen. Until 16 years later some brave souls stood up and brought some of the guilty military men to justice in International court. A documentary “I came to testify” covers the trials that happened years later. This Matt Damon directed film became an award winner and spread a lot of awareness about the tragedy. Angelina Jolie is another Hollywood celebrity that has stood up to talk about use of rape as a weapon of war. She has been working with the British Foreign Minister William Hague to bring the guilty to justice. But one should remember everyone had the right to raise his or her voice.
As I watch the news today, I hear about an Egyptian women being raped in Tahrir Square during the new Presidents inauguration. One could never be sure but maybe some people just wanted to create a chaotic scene on a day of political importance. These events may seem to have only one thing in common and that is innocent women being raped but actually it is more than that. Any feminist would say that men just don’t think “women are equal” and because they believe women are easy targets they rape women. The issue of rape has become bigger than a feminist issue in today’s society.
The question we all should ask ourselves is why were those Bosnian Women raped? The Serbian people used the rape as a form of ethnic- cleansing. It is amazing that before the country exploded into war the Serbians, Croats and Muslims all lived together in the same community in harmony. Why did neighbors become foes? Maybe it is time we reassess the structures that have been built around us; the structures of power that we blindly believe in. Most people personally would never want to go to war just like most people would never want to be raped. I’m sure no Egyptian was happy about the rape at Tahrir Square. Yet this is happening but we don’t ask ourselves why it is happening? One needs knowledge of the flawed institutions of society in order to change them.
Therefore let’s not be blind followers and blind believers of what has been told to us. Like Swami Vivekananda once said: “It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark”. Swami Vivekananda is a symbol of what man should be and the kind of knowledge one should strive for in life. Let us not expect to change what is happening around us when we have no knowledge of it. The Mahabharata the ancient Hindu epic also preaches that the person who stands quiet to injustice is guilty like the sinner himself. So next time you witness or hear of injustice or rape you should not be a quiet. If you see someone on the street sexually harassing a woman you should let him or her know it is not acceptable. These small steps make a huge difference.
About the Author: Sushmita Kamboj is a 19-Year-old rising sophomore at American University, Washington DC. She is studying International Relations with a focus in International Development. She is interested in public affairs and politics and her passion lies in education policy. She strongly believes that education is a human right.