Should Rape Be Considered a Weapon? It's already thought of as a war crime, but now the United Nations Security Council is asking whether rape should be classified as a weapon of war. Madeleine Brand talks to filmmaker Lisa Jackson about how her film has inspired conversation.
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Should Rape Be Considered a Weapon?

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Should Rape Be Considered a Weapon?

Should Rape Be Considered a Weapon?

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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Alex Cohen. In a few minutes the Arabic news network Al Jazeera faces trouble getting on to U.S. cable channels.

BRAND: First though, at the United Nations Security Council today, a resolution is being debated on the use of rape as a weapon of war. The resolution is inspired by a documentary film. The American ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad says Lisa Jackson's film, "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo" inspired him to introduce the resolution and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is presiding over today's debate. Filmmaker Lisa Jackson is here now and she is going to be observing the debate in the Security Council. And Lisa, so what does this mean to you, that your film is inspiring this resolution and this debate, at such high levels?

Ms. LISA JACKSON (Filmmaker, "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo"): It's really rather stunning. You know, when I went to the Congo and talked to these women who just poured their hearts out to me with these stories, including over and over again, please take these stories to someone who will make a difference. Let the world hear these stories and know that this is coming to pass, the most chilling thing imaginable.

BRAND: Well, tell us a bit about your film and what it uncovered?

Ms. JACKSON: I spent about five months in the Congo in 2006 and 2007 and I initially went not really knowing how catastrophic it was over there. It is an underreported war and these women are really forgotten women in a forgotten war. You know five million people have died, they say, maybe up to a quarter of a million, maybe three hundred thousand women have been raped in the most horrific systematic way. And I went to meet some of them, and I met many of them. I met way too many of them in hospitals, in villages, in churches, in their huts and heard their stories, pulverizing, painful, wrenching stories, and the result is an hour and a half film that was on HBO earlier this year. It's been dozen of international film festivals. I've screened it in front of the Senate and the House of Commons and the Belgian Parliament and you can never imagine what I - what the ripple effect might be. So this is all incredibly gratifying.

BRAND: Well, I'm kind of surprised, actually, that rape isn't already considered a weapon of war.

Ms. JACKSON: Well that's rather surprising, too. I think that part of the UN debate is about, I think rape has been, for the safety of women and girls, has not been considered as a security issue, one that impacts a culture and one that impacts a nation. Maybe it is seen as a health issue or a women's issue, but now it's being taken to the highest level of consideration. And with responses that will respect that.

BRAND: So being debated today at the UN Security Council is what exactly? And what could happen?

Ms. JACKSON: Well I'm not exactly a policy (unintelligible), but what I understand is it elevating rape to a security issue. It's something that hopefully will bring a larger response to prevent it in the first place rather than reacting to it.

BRAND: And then would there be some kind of UN sanctions against a force or a country that condones this?

Ms. JACKSON: I don't know what would play out. We would hope that what would happen is that peacekeeping forces, especially in places like the Congo where there are just a pitiful number, would be increased sensitivity around this issue would be taught. And you know, that security patrols would be focused on those areas where woman are most at risk, on their way to the market, on their way to gather firewood, on their way to the watering hole. And right now those aren't areas that are considered security concerns and they would elevate that to where yes, women are protected, will be protected, where they are most vulnerable.

BRAND: Of course there has also been the stories about some peace keepers involved in rape?

Ms. JACKSON: Oh yes, and in the Congo it is particularly heinous. Now brothels of 12 year olds and bush wives which is sort of the euphemism for sex slaves. It is very hard to punish them, and I don't know if this resolution will have any effect on that, but they are sent back to their country, and it is up to Uruguay or Bangladesh or South Africa to punish these predators, and that is rarely done.

BRAND: Have you spoken with Zalmay Khalilzad?

Ms. JACKSON: I have not met the man. His wife, Cheryl Bernard, I think is the one who made him sit down and watch the film, and she's a very dynamic woman who is - become quite vocal about these issues since seeing the film. So I have not met him. Maybe I will today.

BRAND: That's Lisa Jackson. Here documentary is called "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo." The film inspired today's resolution at the UN Security Council as to whether rape should be considered a weapon of war.

Another reason why gas prices are going up, when Day to Day continues.

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