Sexual violence in war-stricken regions is not a strange phenomenon. Mass rapes took place in armed conflict countries like Liberia, Rwanda and also Kosovo. However, the case of DRC attracted international attention (Baaz and Stern 134). The sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo was loud because of the brutal nature and the magnitude it was associated with. The reports from the Human Rights Watch shows that the sexual violence was used as a war weapon by every party that was involved. Rape and other sexual violence tools like kidnapping, forced marriage, and sexual slavery were used as instruments to maintain and win the authority over people in territories that were occupied by the rebels. The sexual violence was always committed in front of their victim families in order to terrorize and control the population. Girls and women were raped from the age of 23 months to 84-year-old women (Heineman 67). Therefore, the majority of the civilians in the war-torn regions of DRC have been victims of the sexual violence which include mutilation and rape that was carried out by the armed groups. According to the research that was carried out by the United States officials, United Nations officials, and the non-governmental organization representatives, the sexual violence is one of the common gender-based violence.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sexual violence was perpetrated against women, children and men by the illegal armed groups, and other Congolese military units. While the unfortunate and the opportunistic act of the violence occurred, the perpetrators also used the sexual violence for purposes of revenge, especially those groups they believed to have cooperated with the rival groups. Sexual violence was the common feature of the conflict that happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the civil war that took place in the country in the mid nineteen ninety.
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The Democratic Republic of Congo government has failed to respond to issues to do with sexual violence. This is because the country lacks the judicial effectiveness that has perpetuated the state of impunity in the country. The judiciary is not able to uphold the legislation as a result of the entrenched corruption, political interference, and also lack of the proper implementation mechanism (Baaz and Stern 34). In 2006, the country adopted a new constitution that has tried to enshrine the sexual violence as one of the crimes against the humanity. However, the new legislations have not been implemented by the judges. Instead, they have considered the vice to be settled out of the court. The international responses have been crucial in dealing with the implications of the sexual violence. The women have dealt with the problem by coming up with various proposals to address the problem (Heineman 78). They have pushed for the comprehensive reform of the security sector. The proposals have been pushed in order to introduce the screening mechanism for both the officers and the staff with an updated records for the sexual violence abuses, created the effective justice systems and have also encouraged the measures for effective professionalism and leadership for the security staff.
Before the Democratic Republic of Congo attained its independence in the year 1960, the status of women was viewed under the context of people who were subjected to colonization. That, people, enjoyed very little and limited rights. The women in Congo did enjoy similar rights as those that existed in the independent and other civilized countries. The access to proper health care and the access to education was not guaranteed in any way. For this reason, the infant mortality and the maternal mortality was very high. Women lived in poverty and were highly marginalized. The Congolese women stayed mainly in the rural area and for this reason, they went through the customary traditions which did not favor development in any way. 30 years from the independence period, the situation of this women really advanced. Many women were now in the position to access proper education and they were no longer predominantly perceived to be rural but rather they became modern. They were now in the position to access information, employment, and also training (Baaz and Stern 78). However, the period was known to be under the dictatorial regime which led to anti-values such as promiscuity and prostitution into the circle of women and these were mainly used to delight majority of the political leaders. Thus, the women during that time were reified despite the many programs that were in their favor.
Over the years, sexual violence against the women has continued to part of the psyche among the international justice institutions and the civil society. Most of the perpetrators of sexual violence were the men. The girls and women are always the main victim and are also the survivors of the sexual violence. During conflict and crisis in Congo, the sexual violence against the girls and women increased. For this reason, they were considered to be the instruments and properties of war. The sexual violence that was perpetrated against made them be degraded, humiliated, and also split both the community and the family ties. The most common type of sexual violence is rape which has been used as the weapon of war. On the other hand, the genital mutilations, forced marriage, and forced pregnancy were used in dominating the women and to a larger extent their communities. Africa is struggling to liberate women from this vice of sexual violence. The continent is keying proper attention to the role of women in the campaign against the sexual violence. For instance, in 1956, women in South Africa, marched in the country to demonstrate against the problem of sexual violence in the continent (Heineman 67). They represented the cry of women in the continent majority of whom were victims of sexual violence who resided and also worked in urban and rural regions. Since the impunity of this vice is widespread in the continent. The fight against the violence needs both the states and the non-state representative to be accountable.
- Baaz, Maria Eriksson and Maria Stern. “Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War”. JAMA 308.7 1-134. Web.
- Heineman, Elizabeth D. Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. 1st ed. [S.l.]: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013. Print.