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Rape as a weapon in the fight against asylum seekers

The first time you talk to a survivor darien gap – The notoriously deadly jungle on the border of Colombia and Panama – was in my briefs in 2021 Imprisonment at Siglo XXIMexico’s largest immigration detention center in Chiapas, Mexico, near the border with Guatemala.

I was the only detainee from the United States, the country originally responsible for immigration control in Mexico. ended up in immigration prison Purely because of my stupidity and laziness in renewing my tourist visa. My fellow prisoners face a more existential predicament, many of them from Haiti, Cuba, Bangladesh, and elsewhere, hoping to eventually find refuge in the United States, where political They were forced to cross the Darien Gap to escape a physical and economic disaster.

Within the walls of Siglo XXI, where dreams of evacuation were on hold indefinitely, Darien was a recurring topic of conversation – a sort of spontaneous exercise in group therapy. He spoke of the many dead bodies he encountered along the way. It was clear that rape was rampant in the jungle.

In fact, sexual violence against those seeking refuge is institutionalized in this densest and most impenetrable forest. This violence may be perpetrated by a range of criminals whose activities are allowed to proceed with impunity in the general context of local populations, militias, or criminalized immigrants.

In February of this year, Have you been to Darien, Panama?Of course, I didn’t have to risk my life or my physical integrity to do so. This is an obscene arbitrary privilege granted by the U.S. passport that is known to cause problems around the world and militarize our borders. to escape confusion.

In the town of Meteti, Darien province, I spoke with Tamara Guillermo, field coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF. Jungle – Sexual attacks, including those against men, remain on par with the course.

Guillermo said he was recently detained in Darien by armed assailants and stripped of all clothing to manually inspect the orifices of his body to ensure nothing of value was inside. Reports were increasing. over there. Women were often separated from the group and raped.

In Meteti, I spoke with a young Venezuelan woman – we call her Alicia – whose 2-year-old son was distracted by a Velociraptor cartoon throughout our conversation and asked me to form They threw balls at me and picked my nose.

Alicia, she told me, crossed the Darien River for ten days and cried every night. She wasn’t raped, but she had heard of many rapes and she had seen many deaths – like an old man curled up under a tree who “looked cold”. She met a Haitian woman whose six-month-old baby had just drowned. She was robbed of her puppies and then of all valuables not hidden in her son’s diapers when a group of 10 hooded men descended on her group. .

In Spanish, the verb “violar” means “to violate” or “to rape” as in human rights. And while Alicia may not have been physically violated in the latter sense, the Darien Gap is pretty much considered one continuous violation.

But the Darien Gap is not the only avenue where those seeking refuge have to endure brutal and often sexually violated dignities. All over the world, we humans have shown sadistic knack for exploiting vulnerable people on the move. It has a lot to do with the fact that there are

Take Libya, the primary starting point for refugees fleeing war and economic devastation to Europe, and it has played host to disasters of all kinds. rape, slavery, torture – Including children seeking shelter. While the West may try to shift the blame for the whole sinister arrangement onto the convenient illusion of African atrocities, in reality the blame lies at the feet of Fortress Europe.

Meanwhile, in northern Mexico, a bipartisan xenophobic policy has put millions of asylum seekers directly into the hands of rapists and kidnappers.and on the island Naurua site for Australia’s preferred offshore asylum “processing” centres, a 2020 report jointly published by the Australian Refugee Council and the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre. I got it: “For years there have been tragic reports of rape and sexual abuse of women on Nauru, including those paying to protect them”.

Speaking of so-called “protection,” Panamanian authorities are currently under fire over allegations of sexual and other abuse at migrant reception centers in Darien province.

During my stay in the Darien area, I also spoke with Marilen Ocinarde, MSF Mental Health Manager in Meteti. She told me that the Western stereotype of rapists as “psychopaths who catch people in the streets at night” is deeply rooted, but the phenomenon is rather complicated.

In the case of the Darien Gap and other immigration trajectories, the context of sexual aggression against people across it has to do with claims of power, status, impunity, and territorial designation, she explained. ‘s use of rape as a “weapon” is also objectifying and dehumanizing the “others” of migrants, further cementing power structures, she said.

Zoom out of Darien and you find yourself in a world of borders that dehumanize and criminalize refugees and other haves in order to mark territory and strengthen power structures. The United States invades borders at will while fortifying its own borders, turning spaces like the Darien Gap into physical and psychological weapons.

From Panama to Libya to Nauru, wars are being waged against peoples who have been deprived not only of their right to cross borders, but also to control the very boundaries of their bodies. And that is just a violation of humanity.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial attitude of Al Jazeera.

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