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”

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

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In situations of war, women and children suffer some of the utmost health and social inequities. The effects of war go far yonder than the conflicts itself. They are the victims of human rights violations, suffering and death acts. At the end, women and children are supposed to bear the consequences of the war.

United Nations reports have shown three months after conflict flared up in Yemen, the violence is still escalating across the country. Over 2,800 people have been killed; over a million people have been exiled, with many enforced decisions by armed clatters, bombing and airstrikes.

Women have been unduly affected by the conflict. Their access to indispensable services, livelihood and protection needs were limited and have been complicated by gender inequalities.

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According to Amnesty International report, that highlighted that at least 6 children under the age of 10 were killed in airstrikes on Sana’a on 26th March, in wealthy nations, death cases like these are rare to happen and when it does, it makes headlines. This is simply one of many episodes where the innocent women and children of Yemen have paid the heavy price of the western-backed airstrikes and internal conflict of the country.
Yemenis women carried stories of sadness because of what war caused of social and economic consequences on their lives; some of them were forced to marry and others were victims of continues violence incidents. And they are supposed to accept these conditions as they have no other choice.
Violence was always a significant issue facing women in Yemen. In the country’s 2013 demographic and health survey, 92% of women claimed that violence against women most happened at home.
This current internal conflict in Yemen has even degenerated conditions for women. Many of Yemenis women are struggling on how to support and finance their families, when their husbands have gone to fight. Others have been exiled, with little or no access to health services, education and work opportunities.

As women and children are regularly the most pretentious by war-conflict, it is hence vital that women play a fundamental role in peace discussions and post-conflict renewal.
In Yemen’s conflict case, women continue to be absent from formal peace negotiations in Middle East and especially in Yemen. There is little space open for women to engross in peaceful protests, and this is not because women lack the resolution to fight for peace. But, it is the male-controlled mentality of Saudi-inspired Salafism that has detached women from participation in building the peaceful Yemeni society.
Meanwhile Yemeni women peace activists have been calling outside the country for an end to the fighting and the obstruction of necessary needs that has shaped an unrelenting humanitarian crisis.

The effects of war remain for years after the conflict ends. Women become widowed and children orphaned. Women face struggles to bear with livelihoods needs of their families.
The crucial role of women in development, peace, security and human rights cannot be denied, It is thus of countless importance that women should play a noteworthy role in limiting the effects of violence. Women must be actively engaged in the peace discussions process at the regional, national, and local level.

While women remain a minority, everyone will be suffering.

Sana AFOUAIZ