Rape and Conflict Minerals: Photographer takes on the technology industry through art

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fretwell photo
credit: Sarah Fretwell

What lead you to the link between the technology industry and violence against women?

I am not the first person to make this link. Many everyday objects we use have difficult stories behind their production.

Originally, rape was used as a tool of war to break apart communities and scare them into loyalty or punish them for helping an opposing group. One of the most shocking things is that rape has become “normalized” and now boys/men are being raped too. Money from the “conflict” minerals in our technology fuels continued instability in the DRC.

The breakdown of society and the normalization of rape is a byproduct of a corrupt government, land disputes, citizenship disputes, and the exploitive businesses practices (including by US, European, and Canadian companies) occurring in the DRC. An elite class of Congolese, the corrupt Congolese government, unscrupulous foreign mining and banking companies, and paramilitaries from multiple countries (mainly Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi) are keeping the country unstable in a fight for profit and power.

The poor bear the brunt of the conflict, experience none of the benefit, and have no voice in the government. When they do speak out they are punished. Women, girls, and other vulnerable populations are at the lower echelons of society. They have no way to protect themselves and no one is protecting them. With few rights and no functioning justice system, they are the easiest to victimize. Men and boys have been emasculated and there is little opportunity to provide for their family. Often their only job opportunity is to join the military or a rebel group, as little of the profit the government or elite business goes back into building the country.

With no transparency in the business transactions the people have no way to hold their government accountable for its business dealings. In not taking a strong stance on this issue of conflict minerals companies are in essence saying, “This is an acceptable cost of doing business”.

It is women and girls who are paying the highest price.

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