March 16, 2023

Decades of Brutality: The Enduring Violence Against Women in Eastern DRC – A Search for Accountability


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As we mark Women’s History Month, let us not forget the ongoing violence against women in Eastern DRC. The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been mired in conflict and violence for decades, with women bearing the brunt of the brutality.

The conflict, which started in the mid-1990s, has been characterized by a high prevalence of sexual violence, with women and girls being raped and assaulted with impunity. Despite numerous calls for accountability and justice, the violence continues, and the women of Eastern DRC remain vulnerable.

Sexual violence against women in the DRC has been a weapon of war since 1996, with various armed groups, including the ADF, CODECO, Mai Mai, and the FDLR, perpetrating the crimes.

The scale and brutality of the violence have been shocking, with reports of gang rapes, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence. Women and girls have been targeted, not only as combatants but also as civilians, with attackers using rape as a means of terrorizing and controlling communities.

The consequences of the violence have been devastating, with women suffering both physical and psychological harm. Many have been left with permanent injuries, including fistulas, and have been stigmatized by their communities, leading to isolation and exclusion.

The psychological impact of sexual violence is equally devastating, with many women suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Despite the widespread condemnation of violence against women in the DRC, very little has been done to hold perpetrators accountable.

The country’s justice system is weak, and impunity remains the norm, with few cases ever making it to court. Moreover, the ongoing conflict has made it difficult to hold perpetrators accountable, with rebel groups often operating with impunity in the region.

It is not just the armed groups that are to blame for the violence, however. The DRC government has also failed to protect its citizens, with the army and police themselves perpetrating sexual violence against women.

The international community, too, has been slow to act, with few concrete actions taken to address the issue.

It is time for all parties to take action and find a sustainable solution to the violence against women in the DRC. Rebel groups must stop using rape and sexual violence as weapons of war and respect the rights of women and girls.

The DRC government must take steps to hold perpetrators accountable, including members of the security forces, and improve access to justice for survivors. The international community must also step up and provide support, including funding for programs aimed at ending the violence and assisting survivors.

To the rebels: It’s time to recognize that violence against women is not a sign of strength, but rather a sign of weakness.

Your actions are cowardly and deplorable, and you will be held accountable for your crimes. It’s time to put an end to the violence and work towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

To the DRC government: It’s time to prioritize the safety and well-being of women in Eastern DRC. You must ensure that perpetrators of violence are brought to justice and that victims have access to support and services.

You must also invest in education and awareness-raising campaigns to promote gender equality and end the culture of impunity that allows violence against women to continue.

To the international community, we say: provide the necessary support to end the violence against women in the DRC. This includes funding for programs aimed at ending the violence and assisting survivors, as well as political pressure on the DRC government to take action.

In conclusion, the violence against women in the eastern DRC must end, and perpetrators must be held accountable. The time for action is now.

It is time for all parties to come together and find a sustainable solution to this enduring crisis. We must stand with the women of the DRC and demand justice and accountability for the violence they have endured for far too long.

Jean Michel Karangwa is a Rwandan journalist and film producer who is passionate about human rights, youth empowerment, and green economy.

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