One rape every minute in Congo

Sydney Morning Herald

A STUDY by American scientists estimates that nearly 2 million women
have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with women
victimised at a rate of nearly one every minute.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, is one
of the first comprehensive looks at the prevalence of rape in Congo. It
says that the problem is much bigger and more pervasive than previously
thought. Women have reported alarming levels of sexual abuse in the
capital and in provinces far from Congo’s war-torn east, a sign that the
problem extends beyond the nation’s primary conflict zone.

”Not only is sexual violence more generalised,” the study said,
”but our findings suggest that future policies and programs should
focus on abuse within families.”

For the past 15 years, Congo has been racked by rebel groups that
terrorise civilians, particularly in the east, often to exploit the
country’s mineral riches. UN officials have called Congo the centre of
rape as a weapon of war, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
visited rape victims in eastern Congo in 2009 in an effort to draw more
attention to one of Africa’s most intractable and disturbing conflicts.

Many areas of Congo are inaccessible – cut off by thick forests and
warring groups – and many victims have been too frightened to speak out.

The conclusions in the new study, by three public health researchers –
Amber Peterman of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Tia
Palermo of Stony Brook University and Caryn Bredenkamp of the World
Bank – are based on extrapolations from a household survey done in 2007
of 3436 Congolese women nationwide. The researchers found that around 12
per cent were raped at least once in their lifetime and 3 per cent were
raped in the one-year period before the survey.

Around 22 per cent had been forced by their partners to have sex or
perform sexual acts against their will, the study showed. The women,
aged 15 to 49, were interviewed in a demographic and health survey
partly financed by the US government.

The study’s authors used current population estimates, which put
Congo’s population at around 70 million, to extrapolate that as many as
1.8 million women have been raped, with up to 433,785 raped in the
one-year period – almost a rape a minute.

Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative,
which has sent doctors to Congo to treat rape victims, said that there
were ”some limitations in the methodology, such as the sampling methods
and the sample sizes” of the study. But ”the important message
remains: that rape and sexual slavery have become amazingly commonplace
in this region of the DRC and have defined this conflict as a war
against women.”

The authors believe the rape problem may be worse than their study
suggests. The findings are based on survey results from females of
reproductive age, but many reports and witness accounts have shown that
armed men often gang-rape young girls – some even toddlers – and elderly
women in their 70s and older, in addition to a growing number of men
and boys. Also, many rape victims never report being assaulted because
of the shame and stigma.

Walungu: violences sexuelles, quatre militaires condamnés à mort | Radio Okapi

Quatre condamnations à mort, huit condamnés à 20 ans, un à 7 et un autre à 5 ans de prison ferme, ainsi que trois acquittements, tel est le verdict du tribunal militaire garnison de Bukavu dans le procès en chambre foraine, en territoire de Walungu contre 17 militaires et policiers qui étaient poursuivis pour viols et violences sexuelles.
Le procès a duré dix jours.
Le prononcé a eu lieu samedi au bâtiment de la Police nationale congolaise et devant une foule moins nombreuse.

En plus de leurs peines respectives, les condamnés doivent également payer des dommages intérêts, l’équivalent en francs congolais de 10 000 $ US.
Ils payeront aussi les frais d’instance qui varient entre 10 000 et 50 000 francs congolais, et cela dans un délai de huit jours.
Si ce délai n’est pas respecté, trois mois supplémentaires s’ajouteront à la peine de chaque condamné.
Aussi, chaque condamné a-t-il 5 jours pour aller en appel à la cour militaire.
Par ailleurs, étant donné que ces condamnés éraient sous le drapeau de la RDC au moment des faits, l’Etat congolais est reconnu civilement responsables, et par conséquent, le tribunal militaire lui exige le paiement des frais exigés aux condamnés.
Tous ces condamnés vont purger leurs peines à la prison centrale de Bukavu.

 – Carte de Walungu au Sud-kivu
Carte de Walungu au Sud-kivu

More than 30 women raped and beaten in DR Congo attack

Médecins Sans Frontiéres says women were restrained with ropes before attack in Fizi, South Kivu, in eastern Congo

And if you want to hear the story next time before it happens, read this:

The UN must put its words into action on Congo

The UN must put its words into action on Congo

Over the last month there have been more than 500 sexual assaults reported in eastern Congo, including over 200 in four days in the village of Luvungi, only a short distance from the UN peacekeepers’ compound. Marcel Stoessel says the admission of failure by the UN to protect victims of mass rape must turn into real practical protection of civilians: The scale of these brutal attacks is shocking. They must be the final wake up call to the international community do to more – much more – to improve the security of Congolese people.

Unfortunately, we have been here before. We need more than rhetoric this time. Making ordinary Congolese feel safe must take place on the ground, not just within the corridors of the UN.

Sadly, what happened in Luvungi isn’t an isolated event. Ten days later, up to 130 women were reportedly brutally raped in neighbouring South Kivu. It is reported that this time the Congolese army was also responsible. The government of Congo is first and foremost responsible for protecting its civilians. Local communities in various parts of the country are crying out  for a reform of the national army. This call must be answered.

MONUSCO’s protection obligations are clear– what’s needed is a better enforcement of them. The UN force must go out into the villages, listen and respond to the security needs of Congolese men, women and children. This means driving across conflict-affected regions, getting out of their armoured vehicles and interacting with communities to understand the threats people are facing and how best to protect them.

This is what protecting civilians should be about. Until the Congolese army is reformed, the UN force  is the best bet civilians have for protection.

An Oxfam survey released in July this year found that women interviewed overwhelmingly felt less safe than last year, in a large part due to widespread rape. The survey of 816 people living in 24 communities affected by the ongoing Congolese military operations against militia groups in North and South Kivu revealed that 60 percent of those surveyed felt security had deteriorated, with women and boys feeling particularly at risk.

Last year alone 15,000 women and girls were raped in DRC, with many more going unreported.

More than 150 women in four days or 15,000 in one year – these are numbers which have somehow been normalised in this long-running crisis and one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world.

Watch Marcel talk to Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan about what should be done in Congo:

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