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48 Rapes/hr in Congo
48 Rapes Per Hour in the Congo
Nov 3, 2011 Zeeshan Esack
48 Rapes Per Hour in the Congo
The United Nations has estimated more than 420,000 women in the Democratic Republic of Congo are raped each year. To give an idea of scale, the DRC is equal to the size of Western Europe. This estimate is also seen by many scholars as a conservative number, and the Congo is now labeled as the worst place on earth for a woman to live. Twelve percent of the women living in the Congo are believed to have been raped at least once, according to a report by the American Journal of Public Health. The highest frequency being reported in the North Kivu city, this atrocity is not only confined to the conflict areas it has even been reported in the nation’s capital Kinshasa. So let’s ask the obvious question, why is this happening?! Over the past 15 years, civilians have been drawn into the conflict, which has been driven by a weak government and rich mineral resources, often in remote, forest-covered areas. This never ending struggle for a workable government and fight for resources has left the DRC battered and bruised, with their women being the ones who suffer its effects in silence.
Sexual violence and rape being used a weapon of war is not a new idea. For as long as the human race has engaged in violence, over powering forces have used rape to permanently destroy communities, and any possibility of future retaliation. The DRC has become so plagued with war and rape most of the country is desensitized to the issue. Michael VanRooyen, the director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative said it best “Rape in (Congo) has metastasized amid a climate of impunity, and has emerged as one of the great human crises of our time.” There have been many reports and witness accounts of the gang rape of young girls and elderly women by armed militia, and also accounts of men being raped. Because of the stigma of rape, many married women find themselvesabandoned by their husbands.
Unfortunately there is no happy ending to this conflict as it stands today. There is still the power struggle and fight for free elections in the nation. There is however some light in this dark reality. In February, Lt. Col. Kibibi Mutuare and 10 of his soldiers were convicted of rape and crimes against humanity for a January spree of mass rape and looting in the town of Fizi. The highest ranking Congolese army officer convicted of crimes against humanity, Mutuare was sentenced to 20 years in prison. There is some justice, but the amount that equates to a drop in the ocean. This horrific and commonplace practice of rape in the DRC, needs international intervention and global attention. With external interest there can be platforms for the countries hurt, battered, and bruised to seek a future. Global help can give the country the one thing it so desperately needs, more than elevated education, health care and resources...it will give them hope.