War on Women Continues in the Congo

By Rachel Walden — October 8, 2007

A piece in Sunday’s New York Times. “Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War,” reports on widespread rape and brutality against Congolese women that gained attention during recent conflicts but appears to be increasing despite efforts to stabilize the nation.

Malteser International runs health clinics in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and estimates that it will treat 8,000 sexual violence cases this year, up from 6,338 last year, and one hospital performs an average of six rape-related surgeries per day. According to a gynecologist operating in the region,

“Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair.”

As has been previously reported, obstetric fistula, HIV/AIDS and the rejection of women by their families and communities are among the long-term consequences of these attacks.

Officials fear that this horrific abuse of women has outlasted the wars in Congo because former militia members who used rape as a weapon of war in past conflicts have formed new groups to perpetuate the cruelty.

Playwright Eve Ensler provides additional description of the situation in the Congo following her visit there in a piece for Glamour magazine.

UNICEF and V-Day recently partnered to launch a campaign taking on the issue, “Stop Raping our Greatest Resource: Power to Women in the DRC.”

Women for Women International also does work on sexual violence issues in the region and elsewhere around the globe.

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