Report shines light on rape as war weapon

A new report has shown the real extent of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo -with details published on 4000 rapes in the war-wracked east of the central African country.

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The report found that more than half of the rapes committed in the east of the DRC, largely ruled by militias and rebel movements, were by gangs of “armed men,” Oxfam International said.

The inquiry by the charity, carried out in the Sud-Kivu province town of Bukavu, “shows that 60 per cent of the rape victims questioned were raped by gangs of armed men and that more than half of the aggressions took place inside the homes.”

Rape as a weapone of war is nothing new – nor is it new in the DRC – but the authors of the report, carried out over four years, point to evidence to suggest a dramatic rise in rape committed by civilians.

56 per cent of attacks carried out by armed men in homes

It revealed that 56 per cent of the attacks were perpetrated by armed men inside family homes, nearly 16 per cent in fields and nearly 15 per cent in the forest, citing statements by 4311 women questioned at Panzi hospital which specialises in treating victims of rape.

Carried out for Oxfam by The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the report spoke of “the stigmatisation that the women are victims of in their families after having been raped and the difficulties they encounter in accessing medical care.”

“Fewer than one per cent of the rape victims went to Panzi hospital with their husbands and nine per cent of them were abandoned by their partner,” Oxfam said.

Margot Wallstrom, special representative of the United Nations secretary general for sexual violence in combat zones, has been in the DR Congo since Monday and was to visit Nord- and Sud-Kivu provinces in the east of the country.

The two regions are highly unstable due to the presence of several armed groups who have been committing all kinds of atrocities, especially sexual violence, for more than a decade.

Oxfam International recommended that the Congolese government “reform the security sector and the judiciary system to guarantee total intolerance of rapes, whether they are committed by civilians, militiamen or soldiers.”