Women still the target of sexual violence

// 31 July 2007

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Traditionally women have always been considered the ‘fairer sex,’ although unfortunately this, instead of allowing us some sort of protection from violence and sexual assault, has made us more vulnerable and susceptible to it.

The treatment of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has recently hit the headlines, with the authorities allegedly doing little to protect females in the community from being violently raped according to a report by Aljazeera.

According to an investigation by the UN, the inhumane and deplorable treatment of women in this region looks set to continue for the foreseeable, especially since there is nothing in place to offer these women some sort of protection and shelter from continued sexual assault and degradation. In fact, very often those men who are supposedly employed to enforce the civil rights of the community are some of the most heinous perpetrators.

Yakin Erturk, a Turkish lawyer and special envoy for the UN Human Rights Council on violence against women, remarked following her 11-day visit that the situation in the South Kivu province is the most horrific she has ever seen. Rape, says Yakin, is

“…rampant and committed by non-state armed groups, the Armed Forces of the DRC, the National Congolese Police, and increasingly also by civilians. Violence against women seems to be perceived by large sectors of society to be normal.”

According to Yakin’s report, the women in the DRC and subject to violence and brutality that extends beyond rape and they are in desperate need of intervention by forces to provide them with help to ensure that this does not continue to be perceived as the correct way to treat women. Women here are treated as nothing more than mere playthings, a source of sexual gratification, and the guilty parties need to be brought to justice to ensure this perverse interpretation of gender roles is not further perpetuated.

Some of the groups responsible for raping women were involved in the Rwandan massacres of 1994, during which time 800, 000 people were killed. Erturk continues,

“Women are gang-raped, often in front of their families and communities. In numerous cases, male relatives are forced at gun-point to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters.”

Following rape, the victims are forced to suffer further, many stabbed in the genital area, with many survivors informing Erturk that they were forced to eat the flesh or excrement of their murdered relatives, perpetuating their degradation.

Although sexual violence was outlawed by Congo’s parliament in July 2006, Erturk found the system was corrupt, with the legislation nor properly enforced for the benefit of women. Senior army and police officials shielded their men from prosecution, and although the courts ordered the state and individuals to pay the victims compensation, to date this has not been realised.

With state officials guilty of corruption, it is unfair that women in the DRC are being denied justice, and are being forced to suffer for nothing more than their gender.

Photo by Mark Witton, shared under a Creative Commons License

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