The first complete report on the rape and abuse of women during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo concludes that all sides commit atrocities against women as a common military tactic intended to subdue the civilian population.
The report, entitled Women’s Rights Violations During the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was compiled by two researchers at the local organization, Association for the Rebirth of Human Rights in Congo, according to Women’s Enews. The report indicates that tens of thousands of Congolese women have been subjected to rape, torture, and humiliation during the country’s four-year war. Local physician, Dr. Denis Mukaweye told the BBC, “We’ve had cases of serious wounds to the women’s genitals and anus. Sometimes after the actual rape, women have been shot in the vagina, or they are cut with knives.” Resistance is often met with additional brutality, including being shot in the arms, legs, and/or genitals. Women have even been sliced to pieces in front of family members, according to the BBC.
A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in June 2002 entitled The War Within the War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo, states that despite the prevalence of rape as a war strategy, soldiers continue unpunished. HRW confirms that soldiers and combatants rape women and girls—ranging from five to 85-years old—as part of their larger campaign to terrorize communities and impose their control. Even though those guilty of committing acts of sexual violence have been successfully tried and imprisoned via International Tribunals for Bosnia and Rwanda, rape in Congo remains a crime that goes unchecked.
In July 1998, 120 countries, excluding the United States, voted to adopt the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article 7 of the Rome Statute presents clear language defining gender crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity, and the crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Under Article 7, the rape and torture of women and girls in the Congo would qualify as a crime against humanity; therefore, violators could be tried before the ICC.
Media Resources: Women's ENews 11/07/02; BBC 11/06/02; HRW report summary 6/2002, Feminist Daily News Wire 5/17/01