DR Congo steps up to fight against sexual violence

Democratic Republic of Congo steps up in fighting against sexual violence, getting rid of ‘’rape capital of the world’ tag, Congo's presidential advisor says

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) boosts its efforts in fighting against sexual violence with the aim of trying to stop being known as the ‘’rape capital of the world," the presidential adviser on sexual violence said on Thursday.

Sexual violence in Congo is mostly considered to be a by-product of the conflict in the eastern part of the country, where fighting factions have committed many atrocities, but rape is also rife beyond the conflict zones.

DRC President Joseph Kabila established the office of presidential adviser on sexual violence and child recruitment in July 2014 in an attempt to increase efforts to overcome the problem.

The head of office Jeanine Mabunda Lioko says that while fighting against rape, she also aims to change the world’s negative perception of the country which generally comes to the fore with its violence and poverty.

"This tag is making the work difficult. It's vested in the mentality of people," Mabunda Lioko said, in an event organised by the London-based think tank Chatham House.

"But we are trying to change this and move forward ... to inspire a culture of zero tolerance for sexual violence. We have tried to set up ... standards and precedents so that everybody can know that we are not joking any more about that issue."

"Now with the return of peace we have the opportunity to change the story, to change the narrative, to change the critical issue once and for all, we have no more excuse," Mabunda Lioko added.

According to the United Nation's figures, there was a 50 percent reduction in cases of sexual violence in the DRC between 2013 and 2015 .

Last November, Congolese army general Jerome Kakwavu became the highest ranking official to be charged with sexual violence by a military court for the crimes he carried out when he was a rebel commander in northeastern Congo between 2003 and 2005.  

As part of the "Break the silence" campaign, Mabunda Lioko’s office has set up a helpline for victims in order to provide medical and legal assistance.

Millions of people died in a war in eastern Congo, in which many countries were involved, between 1998 and 2003 due to conflict, disease and starvation.

The Congolese government is still struggling to stops dozens of armed groups in the unstable eastern part of DRC.

TRTWorld and agencies