Thursday, April 29, 2010

DR Congo: Rape capital of the world

The Democratic Republic of Congo has endured overlapping wars and violent conflicts for several years. There have been armies from a number of different countries and private militias roving the central African nation raping, looting, enslaving and killing with no one to stop them. The central government has been so corrupt and weak it has not been able protect its citizens.

The breakdown of the social order war brings is no more evident than in the epidemic of rape of women and girls that is occurring in the DR Congo. According to a study by Oxfam, reported on in the Guardian:
Sexual violence has become increasingly pervasive in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where civilian rape has risen 17-fold in the past few years, says a report released today by Oxfam.

The study found that 38% of rapes were committed by civilians in 2008, compared with less than 1% in 2004. "These findings imply a normalisation of rape among the civilian population, suggesting the erosion of all constructive social mechanisms that ought to protect civilians from sexual violence," it said.

Armed groups, including the army and Congolese and Rwandan militias, have raped tens of thousands of women in Congo. But the report, Now, the World is Without Me, said about 56% of sexual assaults were committed by armed men in homes in the presence of the victim's families, including their children. About 16% reported were in fields, and 15% in forests. Incidents of sexual slavery were reported by 12% of women surveyed, with some held hostage for years.
According to the BBC:
The Democratic Republic of Congo is "the rape capital of the world", a senior UN official has said.

Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence in conflict, urged the Security Council to punish the perpetrators in DR Congo.

Rape remained a dominant feature of the ongoing conflict in eastern DR Congo, with impunity being the rule rather than the exception, she said.

More than 8,000 women were raped during fighting in 2009, the UN says.

"Women have no rights, if those who violate their rights go unpunished," Ms Wallstrom told the UN Security Council on her return from DR Congo.

"If women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced," she said.

The UN mission in DR Congo, Monuc, has been trying to deal with the problem by escorting women on their way to market, developing early warning systems and working with local officials, according to a UN statement.

In April, research on sexual violence in DR Congo's eastern South Kivu province produced shocking findings.

The report by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative showed that 60% of rape victims in South Kivu were gang raped by armed men, more than half of the assaults took place in the victims' homes and an increasing number of attacks were being carried out by civilians.

Eastern DR Congo is still plagued by army and militia violence despite the end of the country's five-year war in 2003.

Monuc troops have been backing efforts to defeat rebels linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, who are operating in eastern DR Congo.
Whether rape occurs as a weapon of war or as a common crime makes little difference to the women who are attacked. The social order has collapsed. Not only are they assaulted but their government has little to offer in the way of protection from being raped again.

You can read the entire stories cited above from the Guardian here and the BBC here.

1 comment:

Joel Monka said...

It should be noted that this is happening despite the presence of the biggest UN peacekeeping force in UN history. A cautionary note for those who think the UN can handle all international affairs.