Rape and Sexual Violence in Congo

Rape and sexual violence are weapons used indiscriminantly by all sides in the war in Congo. They are targeted against innocent people living in villages and towns caught in the crossfire. Eastern Congo is often described as being 'the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman'

The UN estimates that a staggering 200,000 women and girls have been the victims of rape or sexual violence in Congo during the last 15 years. The worst of the violence is happening in the east of the country.

Who are the victims of the violence?

Women are targeted indiscriminately for rape and violence. And it's not just women - young girls are often raped too. Charities on the ground there are also seeing an increasing nunmber of young boys who have been the victims of sexual violence.

Some are attacked in their homes and villages, many are kidnapped and taken into the forest where they may be held captive as a 'bush wife' for months at a time. Whilst there they are subjected to gang rapes and have to deliver babies without any medical facilities whatsoever.

Who is perpetrating the violence?

It's not just the rebel groups like the FDLR and Lords Resistance Army (LRA) that use rape and sexual violence as a weapon. The Congolese army (the FRDC) is widely acknowledged to do so too. Discipline within the army is very poor and most soldiers don't get paid regularly. They therefore have to 'live off the land' like the rebel groups do and resort to much the same tactics to keep the local population as scared and compliant as possible. This also enables them to make money from exploiting the rich mineral wealth spread thoughout the country.

Watch a hard-hitting short documentary on the effect of rape in D.R. Congo

Why?

It's a powerful and cheap weapon with which to control the local population. It intimidates them into compliance, punishes them for cooperating with rival groups, and keeps people scared and therefore enables the armed groups to maintain control of the mineral trade.

What is the effect?

Rape is an incredibly cheap and powerful weapon which usually leaves its victims both physically and psychologically traumatised. Its effects can be felt for a lifetime - either through fathering unwanted children or leaving women infertile, incontinent and often with diseases like syphilis, fistula and HIV.

It also does huge damage to families and communities. There's a real stigma and sense of shame around the women who have been raped, and their husbands and families often find it very hard to accept the women back after what's happened to them.

What is War Child doing?

We're on the ground in eastern D.R. Congo - supporting vulnerable girls and young women. Visit our project page to find out more about what we're doing there.

What can I do to help?

We're part of the Congo Now coalition of charities that's campaigning to help put Congo and its people back on the agenda of the world's decision-makers.

Check out the Congo Now website to see their latest campaigns and how you can get involved.

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