Every time you reach out for one of your electronic gadgets, think twice. Did you know that some of the contents and parts that comprise the piece of technology you are dependent on, may just be a conflict mineral? Did you know that these “conflict minerals” are actually minerals sourced from the war-ravaged country of Congo, and that while they are mined and sold, thousands of women are being raped by the militia?
Well. How’s that for an eye-opener?
Congo has rightfully been placed on the list of 5 most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. As these minerals are mined and sold, plenty of women are raped, sexually assaulted and horribly harassed. These women are then turned out of their own homes. If the world goes on silently sourcing these minerals for their manufacturing processes, we could well be the ones responsible for the plight of these women.
Sexual violence in Congo goes back to the beginnings of the conflict itself, having started out in 1998. Women have had to suffer the horrors of gang rapes, torture, sexual slavery, sexual abuse and harassment. Armed groups began functioning like organized crime cartels and demanded control through the use of force, for mineral deposits in Congo. Women were targeted as rape was adopted as the preferred weapon to exercise control.
Although the Western world decided to boycott the indulgence in trade of conflict minerals, there wasn’t much of use for what the women suffered, and to a large extent still do. While there is no doubt that rape itself did take place even before the war broke out, there is enough and more in the form of statistics to suggest that the actual burgeoning rates of perpetration were consequent to the war itself. These offences went largely unchecked and unnoticed. The war provided an easy climate for the offence to take place, and that does not automatically render rape a facet of war culture in Congo. Congolese men have been killed because they refused to indulge in rape.
It is indeed a good move on part of the United States of America, which has passed a bill that President Obama has signed, in the hope of targeting the trade in conflict minerals. The prime minerals being tin, tungsten and tantalum, these minerals contribute to the working of most of our gadgets- from cell phones to laptops. But the US is not the only manufacturer, and it is hoped that the rest of the world would follow suit, too.