Brutal crimes of violence against women and girls have massively increased and become pervasive in the country.
Thousands of women and young girls have suffered due to beating, rape and forced sexual slavery. Just the other month (March 2013) a man killed his pregnant wife because she lost his phone sim card. Girls as young as six years old suffer sexual violence committed by various groups but mostly by those who have power who use it to silence people including those who are supposed to protect them.
The situation of increasing violence against women and young girls is as bad in Kinshasa as it is in rural areas. In the East, on top of being attacked by their own, militia from neighbouring countries also pour into the country to commit sexual atrocities that are of an unimaginable brutality, which go beyond rape and aim at the complete physical and psychological destruction of women as sexual slaves with implications for the entire society. Women are brutally gang raped, often in front of their families and communities. In numerous cases, male relatives are forced at gunpoint to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters. Such women often end up being infected by HIV and stigmatised by their families and, if married, they are often deserted by their husbands.
We (Menelik Education) noted that the security and justice system is extremely weak and fails to address the problems of violence and that women and young girls survivors of rape lack sufficient care and protection. In the course of our daily work defending the vulnerable in Congolese communities, we noted that rape and other forms of violence perpetrated against women can constitute a crime against humanity.
We call upon the government to comply with its obligations for prosecuting persons responsible for such acts, to ensure that all victims of violence whatever their nature, particularly against women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice.
The government needs to deal with the so-called ‘cultural belief’ in some quarters where individuals, communities and officials support and live under a patriarchal system, where a climate of impunity for crimes against women predominates across the DRC and very little is done to stop it or prosecute those responsible for the crimes. The justice system falls short of addressing the problems of sexual violence and women survivors of rape lack sufficient care and protection and, consequently, most survivors are socially stigmatised and/or HIV positive. Even the MONUSCO (UN mission in the DRC), does not have resources and effective mechanisms to deal with such deprivation of human dignity.
While this alarming situation of brutalisation of women and young girls continues in the DRC, it is deplorable that efforts from the international community are targeted at the eastern part of the DRC notably Bukavu, a very small part of the DRC, and are not coming forward to condemn these evil atrocities across the DRC. They seem to relegate violence carried out in non-war situations to the private sphere, a practice which puts women’s and young girls' lives at risk.
The message of Menelik Education and its Centre de Solidarite Nationale (CSN) is that ‘violence against women is a crime against humanity’. The mission of Menelik Education is fullness of life for all. We will continue to participate with confidence and compassion in eradicating all forms of violence. We also reiterate the need for all members in Congolese society to ensure that the innocent are protected and the oppressed are freed.
The survivors of violence in the DRC need moral support to overcome gender-based discrimination and the continuous threat to their life and security. Menelik Education, civil society organisations, the Congolese government and the international community have responsibilities to address this concern.
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