New York, NY
The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been ravaged by conflict for 10 years and is escalating into violence yet again. Women and girls are being systematically targeted on a blood-chilling scale never before seen. The United Nations reports that 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and the total number of assaults across the country may be much higher.
“The international community must pressure and assist the government of the DRC to address the rampant and grotesque violence against women and girls,” says Ms Sarah Chynoweth of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children . “All the players—the national government, international agencies, the local community, health and social services, police and security forces, and the legal justice systems—must coordinate their activities to address violence against women—including assistance to survivors, accountability for perpetrators and preventive measures.”
Thousands of Congolese girls and women suffer from vaginal fistula—tissue tears in the vagina, bladder and rectum—after surviving brutal rapes in which guns, branches and broken bottles have been used to violate them. A survey of rape survivors in South Kivu region revealed that 91 percent suffered from one or several rape-related illnesses.
Although the war in Congo has officially ended, the war against women has not. Further, in post-conflict settings, legal institutions and social systems, which act as protective mechanisms, are often disorganized and dysfunctional. Such violence can contribute to the erosion of the social and economic fabric as women are severely traumatized and forced to abandon their jobs or are too sick or weak to care for their families or participate in the life of the community.
For more information or to arrange an interview with Ms Chynoweth,