More than two-hundred-thousand people in Sudan's western Darfur region have died and more than two million others have been forced from their homes and villages since 2003. That was the year Sudan's government unleashed its Janjaweed militia as part of a campaign against rebels in Darfur.
According to a report by the humanitarian group Refugees International, rape has been "an integral part of the pattern of violence that the government of Sudan is inflicting upon the targeted ethnic groups in Darfur." The Refugees International report says that the raping of women in Darfur "is not sporadic or random, but is inexorably linked to the systematic destruction of their communities."
The report also states that victims are taunted with racial slurs. A woman interviewed in a refugee camp in Chad said that a Janjaweed militiaman who raped her told her: "I will give you a light-skinned baby to take this land from you."
Refugees International also found that because Sudanese laws discriminate against female victims, women face harassment and intimidation by police when they try to report having been raped. Under Sudanese law, a woman needs four male witnesses to prove rape. At the same time, a judge can order one hundred lashes for an unmarried woman who has had sex. A married woman convicted of having sex outside marriage can be stoned to death.
According to the Refugees International report, prosecution of rape is "often functionally impossible because Sudan grants immunity to individuals with government affiliations." This means that legal action cannot be taken against members of the military, security services, police, and border guards, whose immunity may only be lifted by their superior officers. In addition, many members of the Janjaweed are integrated into the Popular Defense Forces, which are also exempt from prosecution.
President George W. Bush says that the violence in Darfur must end:
"For too long the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians. My administration has called these actions by their rightful name, genocide."
The world, says President Bush, has a responsibility to help put an end to the genocide in Darfur.