Women haven’t had an easy ride in the DPRK as you can well imagine. The thin end of the wedge are laws that prohibit women from wearing trousers, jewelry and sandals and riding a bike. The fat end of the wedge is the fact that rape isn’t even really considered a crime and domestic abuse is overlooked unless injuries are serious.
Men work in political and state roles, for state opened companies and the like. These positions do not pay well and in fact they can often go without wages at all. Women on the other hand have started working on small black markets, selling home-made produce and goods. In many poorer families it is in fact the women that are putting dinner on the table.
The black market, as its name suggest, is illegal. But these markets have been tolerated because those in power realise that they are, to a fairly large extent keeping the government afloat.
You might think this would be something that would empower women, but it’s had the reverse effect. Women are considered inferior so for a manly man to be superseded, fed and watered by his diminutive woman is simply too much to bear. According to the report domestic abuse is rife and unchecked.
On top of that, physical abuse by officials is becoming more common place as this witness attests…
“Women were frisked as they entered the station [to check they were not carrying items for sale], I think this is how the sexual violence started happening. Guards also take young girls on the train for sexual acts, including rape. Everyone knows this is happening, it is an open secret”.
A former military officer said the following:
“There were a lot of cases of sexual abuse and rape committed often by senior officers. Normal soldiers would also engage in rape, exacerbated by the fact that these young men were denied the right to have any sexual relations while serving in the army. The rapes were typically covered up, although male comrades would talk about them and some even bragged. It was common knowledge that rapes were taking place”.