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Girls & Women

Congo bans sexual violence documentary, magnifies problem

Flickr: jbdodane

Around 35% percent of women worldwide have experienced some form of sexual violence. That’s more than 1 billion women. That’s more than 1,000,000,000 women. And that’s just an estimate. Who knows how many cases go unrecorded.

Sexual violence is one of the most serious and seemingly intractable problems facing the world. In every country around the world, regardless of civic stability, sexual violence is common.

But countries of instability and conflict see much higher levels, as criminals are less likely to be punished.

Recently, The New York Times investigated the elaborate sex trafficking of ISIS, which has literally “enshrined a theology of rape.”

Another instance is The Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been shattered by decades of war. For years, rape has been a tool of war for marauding militias, especially within and following the civil war of 1998.  

Girls as young as 2 and as old as 80 have been abused. Women are frequently captured and turned into sex slaves.

Medical and psychosocial services are rare, which leads to deaths, injuries, diseases and trauma. This is exacerbated by the stigma that rape attaches to a woman, preventing her from telling anyone what happened.

The documentary, “The Man who Mends Women” explores the life of a doctor, Denis Mukwege, who has bravely cared for victims of wartime rape for the past two decades, treating thousands of women.

Mr. Mukwege has won the Sakharov Prize, Europe’s top human rights award, and has been a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Denis MukwegeImage: Flickr: European Parliament
Denis Mukwege

On September 2nd, the government of the DRC banned the film, sending a clear message to its people: the crimes of the past should stay buried in the past. The trauma of tens of thousands of women is not worthy of an audience.

The DRC’s decision mirrors India’s decision earlier in the year to ban a documentary about a horrific gang rape because it showed a dark side of the country.

As in India, the DRC documentary may end up getting a much broader audience because of the controversy.

Nonetheless, any country that has fostered widespread human rights abuse must reckon with its past.

The only way to expunge a country’s darkness is to earnestly and actively confront it.

The DRC has made some progress by jailing some war criminals, but much still needs to be done.

The majority of the worst offenders are “virtually untouchable.”

Out of 175 countries, Congo is ranked the 154th most corrupt. If the country is ever to heal, this corruption must end. When the plunderers of the country hold positions of power, it is no wonder that attempts to redress past wrongs are blocked.

If you agree that women should be able to live their lives without constant fear for their safety, then go to TAKE ACTION NOW to call on world leaders to protect the rights of girls & women around the world.


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