The Congo

There is an epidemic of rape occurring in the Congo.

Jan Goodwin documented this three years ago for The Nation:

Last May, 6-year-old Shashir was playing outside her home near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), when armed militia appeared. The terrified child was carried kicking and screaming into the bush. There, she was pinned down and gang-raped. Sexually savaged and bleeding from multiple wounds, she lay there after the attack, how long no one knows, but she was close to starving when finally found. Her attackers, who’d disappeared back into the bush, wiped out her village as effectively as a biblical plague of locusts.

Is the epidemic of rape that’s devastating women in the Congo politically motivated? From today’s New York Times article, it seems rather to be an effect of the trauma of the genocide in Rwanda. So many men have become severely damaged, and now women are being brutally and savagely damaged in turn:

BUKAVU, Congo — Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, cannot bear to listen to the stories his patients tell him anymore.

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Sexual Violence in Eastern CongoPhotographs

Sexual Violence in Eastern Congo

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The New York Times

Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair.

“We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,” said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo’s rape epidemic. “They are done to destroy women.”

Eastern Congo is going through another one of its convulsions of violence, and this time it seems that women are being systematically attacked on a scale never before seen here. According to the United Nations, 27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and that may be just a fraction of the total number across the country.

“The sexual violence in Congo is the worst in the world,” said John Holmes, the United Nations under secretary general for humanitarian affairs. “The sheer numbers, the wholesale brutality, the culture of impunity — it’s appalling.”

The days of chaos in Congo were supposed to be over. Last year, this country of 66 million people held a historic election that cost $500 million and was intended to end Congo’s various wars and rebellions and its tradition of epically bad government.

Find the NYT article to read more.