Rape victims fight back in the DRC
One night last November, Janette a young woman from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and her baby were taken from their home at midnight by soldiers who accused her of stealing. The soldiers removed the baby from her back and proceeded to gang rape her for some 6 hours.
Some 40,000 women and girls have been raped over the past 6 years in the DRC by soldiers, civilians, UN personnel and more recently Hutu rebels, former Interahamwe, from across the border over the past 6 years and the rapes continue to increase. It is as if the act of rape is now seen by men as normal and acceptable behaviour and they are immune to any prosecution and justice. One cannot imagine 40,000 women being raped, the majority gang raped so that means there are at least 40,000 multiple rapists in the Eastern Congo.
Despite all their suffering these women are often ostracised by their family and community. Married women in particular are rejected by their husbands and in-laws; One pregnant woman after being raped was laughed at by her husband’s family who asked "were you the only one on the road? "Were you the only one the soldiers treated in such a way"? implying that it was her fault or she was complicit in her own rape.
One hospital in Kivu province has treated over 1000 raped women in the past year, almost
3 a day and this does not include the many who are too fearful to even
seek medical care. Many of the women have suffered horrific vaginal
injuries resulting in permanent incontinence. As more and more civilian men commit acts of rape increasingly against younger children as young as 4 5 years old, the situation is spiraling out of control.
Janette is one of a few women who has chosen to fight back and through sheer courage and perseverance she has seen her rapist brought to justice and given a 20 year sentence. Women who try to seek justice face intimidation by the rapists, his colleagues, senior officers and the justice system itself which is though is completely ill equipped but also does not not see the rape of women as a priority and is utterly corrupt. Janette and her friend who is a witness have been threatened by soldiers who have even surrounded her home in Bukavu and boasted of the rape. When the BBC reporter arrived at the trial of Janette’s rapist they were told the case was postponed due to lack of transport to collect the defendant. However whether due to the presence of the BBC reporter, transport was found and the rapist was brought and the trial went ahead. Janette is still living under fear of retaliation by soldiers for daring to pursue her case.