Politics, World

Rape of Africans by Europeans: An ongoing colonial habit

Experts say sexual abuse by Europeans against Africa ‘nothing new’

Felix Nkambeh Tih   | 18.09.2015
Rape of Africans by Europeans: An ongoing colonial habit

TUNIS, Tunisia

Three white men and a black woman.  A mocking smile on the lips of one of them and the victim screams and struggles at the hands of her torturers, but in vain. 

It is “Rape of the Negress”, the famous 17th century oil painting by Flemish painter Christiaen van Couwenbergh, which portrays the horrors caused by the slave trade system.

Hundreds of years later, the characters in the painting have changed, but the same scene repeats itself endlessly. 

By 2015, nearly 14 French soldiers were suspected of sexual abuse against Central African children they were supposed to protect. The children, aged 9-13, admitted that for a few boxes of sardines they have “done what Monsieur asked them.”

The world feels offended and international NGOs have strongly condemned these abuses.

Anders Kompass, a senior United Nations aid worker, was suspended last April after he disclosed an internal report to French prosecutors, which alleged that children as young as nine were sexually abused by French troops stationed as peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.

UN officials claimed that Kompass had “violated the protocol.”

French authorities immediately launched an investigation into the alleged sex abuse cases. 

France’s Defense Ministry said it will impose the “strongest penalties” against any French soldier convicted of sexually abusing children in CAR. 

French judges arrived in CAR’s capital on Tuesday to hear testimony from 11 Central African girls who claim to have been raped by French soldiers in 2013 and 2014, the mother of one of the alleged victims told Anadolu Agency.

Abdallah Ibrahim, professor of African History at the University of Missouri, said that the sexual abuse cases are nothing new.

“We forget that in the 19th century, sexual colonial violence was expressed in the form of rape,” Ibrahim said. “At the time, acts were not publicized as they are today, and hardly shocked people.”

Ibrahim also said that it is not just in Africa that such atrocities occurred. 

“British and French soldiers also raped women in their own continent,” he said.

According to Miriam Gebhardt’s book When the Soldiers Arrived, approximately 190,000 German women were raped by French, British and American soldiers by the end of World War II. 

Gebhardt also said that, at that time, people mostly referred to the phenomenon as prostitution and did not mention rape.

Nowadays, some still find reasons to justify the behavior of soldiers who are supposed to protect the people in war-hit areas.

Last May, former French Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement told Europe 1, a French radio station, that French soldiers raped children because their working conditions were very difficult. 

“To be in contact with unfortunate and abandoned people can promote such a behavior,” he said.  

He also said that the international community must “spare French soldiers because they render a lot of services to Africa and always perform it with great professionalism.”

An African diplomat told Anadolu Agency, on the condition of anonymity, that “the arrogance of the French politicians toward Africa is not new.”

“France tries to politically, economically and militarily dominate Africa. Sexual violence is a manifestation of the will to dominate,” he said. 

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