fbpx

The Voice of Congolese rape survivors heard in Geneva at the 73rd session of CEDAW

Five organisations, the Movement of Survivors of Rape and Sexual Violence in the DRC, the Mukwege Foundation, the Panzi Foundation DRC, the Lutheran World Federation and the Right Livelihood Award submitted an alternative joint report to the DRC government’s periodic report for the 73rd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

This report, “The Voice of Survivors of Sexual Violence in Conflict,” summarises the five organisations’ concerns about the DRC’s failure to implement some of the recommendations made by the CEDAW Committee on sexual violence during its last cycle in 2013.

 

About the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

CEDAW is an organ of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights composed of 23 international experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The DRC ratified the Convention in 1986, thus committing to take all necessary measures to ensure gender equality.

 

This report is important because it places the voice of survivors of rape and sexual violence in times of conflict at the heart of the analysis and recommendations made to the DRC. The representation of the survivors not only directs the focus towards pragmatic solutions that concretely meet the needs expressed by survivors, but also allows for the voices of survivors to be heard and recognised and thereby empowered. The report focuses on three topics related to the persistence of sexual violence in the DRC.

 

  1. The fight against impunity and access to reparations

Rape and sexual violence continue to be widespread in the DRC and are committed by all parties in the conflict and – alarmingly – by an increasing number of civilians on a growing number of minors, demonstrating the trivialization of rape in society. In Bukavu, the Panzi Hospital treats 1300 to 1900 women a year, and this number has actually increased in supposed “peacetime” since 2016 with many reported mass rapes. Yet impunity prevails and seeking justice remains a challenge for survivors. Even in the rare cases where the perpetrators are convicted, the survivors never receive reparations to which they are entitled, which are essential to heal and reintegrate into society. The report recommends the creation of a reparations fund and the systematic pursuit of perpetrators.

 

  1. Care for victims of sexual violence and children born of rape

Access to quality care – including medical, psychological, legal and socio-economic assistance as provided by Panzi Hospital – remains rare. Many victims, especially in rural areas, do not even have access to basic medical care. Many give births to children from rape, often rejected by their family and community and called “snake children”. We recommend the creation of a holistic support program for victims funded by the state, including special assistance to children born of rape to ensure their inclusion in society.

 

  1. The prevention of sexual violence

Under pressure from the international community, the preceding government of the DRC has implemented sporadic measures, such as the creation of a hotline for victims, or the appointment of a representative against sexual violence in Kinshasa. However, for the most part, these are simple political announcements, have had very little impact on the victims’ lives and have not been proven to reduce the number of cases or help to prosecute more aggressors. The State must launch large-scale awareness campaigns against the prejudices and stereotypes that contribute to the continuation of sexual violence and to do so must use appropriate means to reach the whole Congolese territory.

 

Finally, one of the key recommendations of this report is the systematic consultation of survivors in the design, implementation and evaluation of all programs concerning them, following the principle “Nothing about us without us.”

Read the entire report here.