From the Rape Capital of the World: Stories of Survival

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Violence against women takes different forms: physical, sexual, emotional and economic. These forms of violence are consistent and distress women’s life. Yearly, millions of women and little girls worldwide suffer domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, killing, trafficking, sexual violence in conflict zones, and abuse.

Women and little girls who are subjected to violence suffer a severe range of health and psychological problems which diminish their civic engagement in their communities. These different types of violence against women harm families; generations and nations, in additions strengthen other forms of violence to occur in the society.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular the east of the country, has a long history of rape and violence, it was named the “Rape Capital of the World”. Although sexual violence has always occurred in the country, but the region has faced increased rates of sexual violence at the time of the armed conflicts.

This report has lifted the lid on the sexual exploitation of little girls aged between 6 months to 12 years old, along with government failures to deal with the issue.

The Club des défenseurs des droits de la fille/HPT visited the victims on the 17th of this month in Kavumu, SOUTH KIVU, DR CONGO; the families of the victims shared with us their harrowing feelings.
The daily stories of Kavumu, group of men come every night, break into the houses kidnap and rape little girls. Then in the morning they bring them back to their beds or leave them at the door house. If the girls are lucky enough to survive, they are taken to the Kavumu health center. We have covered 42 severe rape cases of young girls and one of them did not survive, sometimes the little girls get pregnant. Several survivors received the first care in local clinics then were sent to Panzi hospital, the victims are aged between 6 months to 12 years. Relatives of the victims cannot sleep because of the criminals, as they don’t know when they are back again. The poor construction of the homes in this neighborhood, -that are often built of mud- due to lack of financials resources of the families; makes it an easy target for the criminals to break in and rape the little girls.

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A mother testified that neither she nor her husband had heard when their daughter (Elysée) was abducted at their side. The following morning, while bathing her daughter, she realized that she was raped and then took her to the hospital.

Elysée is a 3 year old from Bushumba who was raped at the age of 2 years, she said she saw a civilian and a soldier “I thought it was our landlord”, they injected a syringe in her body and then rapped her. She only felt the pain when her mother took her to the hospital.

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Bénite, 12 years old, was raped at the age of 9 years. She loves her grandmother and lived with her for a while, one night her life changed completely, when she heard someone broke into the house, he prevented her from screaming. He was a man whom she knows very well, he took her by force to his place and raped her and then brought her back in the morning to her grandmother’s house. Her mother realized that something happened to her daughter as she was crying for no reason, then she took her to the hospital when she found out who rapped her little daughter, she prosecuted the rapist, who unfortunately was released the same day because of his financial power. Whenever Bénite sees this man, she starts crying, stop eating, and then remain silent, she told her mother she wants to leave Kavumu.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, four women are raped every five minutes. Impunity sways within the country, and despite that government’s acknowledges that its own security forces constitute one of the main groups of criminals, effective restructurings to the security sector have not been endorsed. The country faces a mass of human rights violations which remain dangerous for women and little girls, whom are subjected to all kind of violence every day.

Nowhere is more dangerous for women than the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where women and girls suffer excessively from high rates of violence and extreme poverty during times of conflict since 1996. Even though peace has been established in most regions of the country, but the eastern provinces, still suffer from gender-based violence.

The use of rape and sexual assault to terrify -women and little girls, their families, and their communities- continues until actions are taken to save their innocent lives.
Special thanks go to:

  • To the parents of the victims for their cooperation with us, and for sharing their stories with us.
  • To the Kavumu hospital nursing center for the care provided to the victims
  • To the “Club des défenseurs des droits de la fille”, for their support in the fight against sexual violence and for their continuous promotion for women’s rights.

This report was written in collaboration with Jocelyne SACERDOCE and “Club des Défenseurs des Droits de la Fille/ HPT”

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The Forgotten Frontline: Women at War Zone: Nigeria’s case

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Soon after taking control of some Nigerian towns, Boko Haram would assemble the population and declare new rules with restrictions and limits to follow, particularly on women. Suffering, rape, forced marriage continuous stories of women tortured by this terrorist group.

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The 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok captured widespread global attention with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Though the missing school girls tell just a small part of the women and young girls torture by Boko Haram.

Following the shocking event of the missing girls, Amnesty International has elevated concerns on the countless number of cases when Nigerian security forces are not doing enough to defend civilians from human rights misuses and abuses committed by Boko Haram.

Girls and women abducted by the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram were forced to unwanted marriage and obligatory labor, rape, torture, psychological abuse and pressured religious conversion.

According to Amnesty International report, more than 2000 women and girls have been abducted and seized and held in militant camps of Boko Haram since 2014, some of them have been targeted because they are Christians and others because they didn’t follow the extremists religious rules, these women were victims of sexual slavery and were trained to kill.

Human Rights Watch collected testimony of the women who escaped Boko Haram’s camps, whom told about the extreme violence terror happening there. Many of the victims expressed that they were subjected to physical and psychological abuse; forced labor; forced participation in military actions, enforced marriage to the abductors; and sexual abuse and rape.

Most of abductions cases by Boko Haram were against Christian women and girls, and many of them have been threatened with death if they refused to convert to Islam.

More than 300 Nigerian women rescued by the Nigerian soldiers from Sambisa forest, where they were forced to witness the public execution of their husbands before whipping into the forest, where they were fed with dry ground corn once a day.

They were also raped, forced into unlawful marriages and stoned to death, some of them were killed unintentionally by the military during the rescue operations, and the soldiers did not recognize that those women were not the enemies but the victims.

Boko Haram forced its laws with harsh punishments on those not following the rules; women who failed to attend daily prayers were punished by public flogging.

The situation over Nigeria calls on the Nigerian government to adopt stronger strategies and measures to protect women and girls, provide help for the victims. The government must provide security forces to prevent abductions and respond more quickly when they happened. The Nigerian authorities have to investigate and prosecute those who commit these inhuman crimes, they need to protect schools and the right to education, and ensure access to medical and mental health services for victims of the abductions.

Sana AFOUAIZ