The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is formally over, but women and girls remain targets for violence. Today, all warring parties in Congo routinely use sexual violence as a weapon of war and a tool of social control. The actual number of women and girls raped in eastern Congo is unknown, but experts say the scale is enormous (hundreds of thousands have been reported).
Mass rape – along with other mass human rights violations – continue in Congo because they can. Weak governmental institutions and a corrupt and ineffective judicial system foster a culture of impunity that leaves an open space for the frequent and unabashed destruction of women’s bodies. Incidence of rape is increasing, and impunity is so ingrained that violence against women is being used by civilians to demonstrate power relations.
Women’s Bodies as Battlegrounds
Women are at the center of the community in Congo. Warring parties rape women in order to destroy the communities they live in – through this whole-population terrorization these warring parties can control valuable territory – and the vast mineral wealth beneath the ground.
Rape traumatizes girls and women, humiliates their husbands, and breaks up families. Women become fearful of working in the fields and taking goods to sell at market, reducing family incomes. If they have been badly injured they may not be able to have more children. Many who are raped are divorced by their husbands and lose their home. In some cases armed men brutalize villagers for food and loot, in others they use rape as a weapon of war to force locals to accept the power and authorities of a particular armed group. Men and boys have also been raped as violence in the Congo increases.
Watch this video interview with Congolese journalist Chouchou Namegabe Nabintu, in which she discusses armed groups’ destruction of women’s bodies in order to control territory and minerals.
The women of Congo – and the communities that rely on them – need your help! The conflict in Congo is fueled by a multi-million dollar trade in minerals that go into everyday electronics like cell phones and laptops. Profit from these illegally extracted minerals finances the armed groups that commit brutal atrocities against women.
Help us end the illegal trade in conflict minerals and urge electronics companies to develop conflict-free products!
Resources on Sexual Violence in Congo