Sexual- and gender-based violence in the Central African Republic

Credit Zute Lightfoot

Human Rights Watch's new report—'They Said We Are Their Slaves', released today—highlights the harrowing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) women and girls have had to endure in the Central African Republic over the last few years.

Between early 2013 and mid-2017, the conflict between two predominant parties, the Muslim Seleka and Christian militia known as 'Anti-Balaka', has created an incredibly toxic environment.

The report shows that soliders on both sides are using sexual violence as a weapon of war, punishing those that are perceived to support the opposing side.

'Armed groups are using rape in a brutal, calculated way to punish and terrorize women and girls' — Hillary Margolis, Women’s Rights Researcher, Human Rights Watch.

In response to this, War Child have implemented projects working with local communities to help identify these survivors so that they can receive the support they so desperately need. 

Many survivors do not want to come forward due to the stigma and shame that is associated with it.

Without proper systems in place to support these survivors, we also identified health centres in surrounding areas and worked with other specialist agencies, that could provide medical assistance to SGBV survivors. 

Credit Zute Lightfoot

296 survivors were interviewed, 52 of which were only girls at the time of the attacks.

In some instances, some survivors were raped by up to 10 men, sometimes in front of their children or parents, with many being made to watch their fathers being mutiliated and killed. Others were held for as long as 18 months as sex slaves.

War crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed. However, these survivors go without finding justice, with not one attacker arrested or tried for these atrocities. 

 

Credit David Bebber

In Bossangoa and Bambari, War Child have invested time to empower the community to develop the support networks to help these survivors. 

Developing activities that would foster safe networks is vital. Survivors face fierce stigma and rejection from family members and locals. 

We provide workshops to members and local leaders of communities, teaching them about the causes of SGBV, how and where to find help, and the importance of psychosocial care.

'There needs to be a strong and urgent message in the Central African Republic that rape as a weapon of war is intolerable' — Hillary Margolis, Women’s Rights Researcher, Human Rights Watch.

Breaking down these barriers of stigmatisation is so important. 

With the clashes between armed groups showing no sign of decreasing, these crimes and violations are likely to continue.

War Child works in a number of countries to support SGBV survivors including the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.