Yesterday, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning the ongoing violence against civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and asserting that the Congolese government must ensure the protection of the people. The scale of the conflict in the DRC is difficult to grasp—starting over ten years ago, involving seven nations, and killing millions of people.
And the women of the DRC have faced staggering levels of sexual violence. As armed groups struggle for control in eastern Congo, women are increasingly targeted as rape is used as a weapon of war. It is impossible to tell how many women we’re talking about. But in just the first six months of this year, the number of cases of sexual violence reported in North Kivu—a province where much of the fighting has taken place—was more than 5,000. There are fears that the sexual violence crisis is set to worsen in the coming months, prompting one aid worker to call it “one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.”
Congolese women’s groups have organized themselves to respond to this threat. In June, they wrote a letter to the UN Security Council, stating:
"It is difficult to imagine the number of people, men and women alike, who have died due to sexual violence....We are vulnerable in our fields, in the streets, and even in our own homes. Even our daughters as young as three years old are vulnerable when they are playing with their friends or are on the way to school. The nuclear family, the base of our society, no longer exists. Today in Congo, the woman has become an object. We are not protected. We have no justice. There is a crisis of authority and a culture of impunity."
Woman are demonstrating in camps for internally displaced people and calling for protection from sexual violence. Hundreds of women dressed in black rallied in a soccer stadium to protest the attacks against women. Women human rights defenders have risked their lives in calling for peace. In all of these ways and more, woman are acting to end sexual violence and to stand up for their human rights.
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