White House and Senate Versions of Detainee Bill Permit Common Types of Rape and Sexual Assault

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Rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse are mentioned twice in the bill that George W. Bush is trying to rush through Congress, with loopholes to spare. The bill, which deals with the jailing, interrogation and trying of terror suspects, defines rape as “forced or coerced genital or anal penetration.” That’s it. As the New York Times points out, sex without consent–the type that prisoners undergo frequently–is not mentioned at all.

Similarly, the bill’s definition of sexual abuse is quite narrow, requiring physical contact. That means that prisoners could be ordered to strip and dance, as they were in Rwanda, or strip and wear underwear on their head or get into a body pile, as they were forced to do at Abu Ghraib.

According to Rhonda Copelon, a law professor at CUNY, the bill, in its current forms, would not permit rape to be classified as a form of torture because there must be specific proven intent in an act of “torture,” and specific proven intent is very hard to prove in cases of rape.

The fight to protect women under international law has been a long and difficult one. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the more “progressive” human rights organizations finally included female genital mutilation as a human rights issue, having preferred to call it a “cultural difference.” That the Bush White House would permit the sexual assault of women (and men) is not a surprise. Sadly, it is not a surprise for some of us that our own Senate would do likewise.

Neither Sen. Lindsey Graham nor Sen. John McCain, the bill’s authors, responded to questions from the New York Times about these issues.

(Via truthout)

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