Women and the Conflict in DRC
Table of Contents
Background – the conflict
The Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country and involved seven foreign armies and is sometimes referred to as the “African World War”. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continues in the east of the country. In eastern Congo, the prevalence and intensity of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. The war is the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people.
In 1999, the Congolese government, two armed groups, and five neighboring countries signed the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. As determined in the peace agreement, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) established the UN Mission to the DRC (MONUC) to ensure the implementation of the Lusaka Accord. With the support of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and international observers, the DRC held its first democratic elections in 2006. he representation of women elected to the government is very low: 9 of 60 Ministers, 42 of 500 members of the National Assembly, 5 of 108 Senators; and 43 of 690 Provincial Assembly members are women.http://www.vday.org/drcongo/background
Women and the conflict
According to a June 2002 Report on Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo, sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war by most of the forces involved in this conflict. Combatants of the RCD, Rwandan soldiers, as well as combatants of the forces opposed to them-Mai-Mai, armed groups of Rwandan Hutu, and Burundian rebels of the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Forces pour la défense de la démocratie, FDD) and Front for National Liberation (Front pour la libération nationale, FNL)-all frequently and sometimes systematically raped women and girls in the last year.http://www.womenwarpeace.org/docs/drc_archive.pdf
According to the UN Human Rights Commission Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women:
“forces on all sides in the Congo conflict have committed war crimes against women and girls, frequent and sometimes systematic use of rape and other forms of sexual violence in the Rwandan-occupied areas of eastern Congo. 3 Rape is often used against women who are known or suspected to support opposing parties. Crimes of sexual violence have reportedly been committed by soldiers of the Rwandan army and its Congolese ally, the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democracy (RCD), as well as armed groups opposed to them – Congolese Mai Mai rebels, and Burundian and Rwandan armed groups. There are reports that Interamhamwe militia in South Kivu Province often raped women. Rwandan troops and RCD rebels also reportedly engaged in the rape of women in public and often in the presence of their families and in-laws. It is reported that combatants’ raped women and girls during military operations to punish the local civilian population for supporting the “enemy”. A woman raped in this manner generally is forced out of the village, leaving her husband and children behind. According to reports, marauding bands of armed men in the occupied territories often put victims of rape through further abuse by inserting rocks, sharp sticks, and hot peppers into their vaginas. In other cases, Mai Mai rebels and other armed groups abducted women and girls and forced them to provide sexual services and domestic labor, sometimes for periods of more than a year. Numerous groups, particularly human rights groups, have reported that Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) troops and RCD rebels in the country targeted Catholic clergy for abuse. Abuses reportedly took the form of attacks on missions, the killings of priests, the rape of nuns, and the burning of churches.”
- Since October 2002, women’s associations in the Uvira province have reported 5,000 cases of rape, which corresponds to 40 a day, according to ReliefWeb. This figure does not include cases of rape that go unreported.Pygmy women in Eastern DRC have been subjected to genocide, sexualized violence, rape,mutilation and cannibalism at the hands of military and other armed groups. Representatives to the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2003 described the Pygmies as being on the verge of extinction.”
- In addition, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women reported in 2003 that large numbers of girls have been conscripted into fighting factions as combatants and as domestic and sexual slaves. Girls subjected to forced marriage become the private property of their husbands.http://www.womenwarpeace.org/docs/drc_archive.pdf
- In 2003, UN IRIN News reported that women comprised the majority of victims in at least three civilian massacres committed by various actors.
- The UN Wire reported in April 2004 that girls who fought in the ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s northeastern region or were abducted by armed factions are facing ostracism when they return home. These girls often cannot form relationships with men in their communities because they have lost their virginity and sometimes have their own children. Because these girls have lost their value in the marriage market, their families cannot receive dowries and shun them as well.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Women and the Conflict in Darfur
- Women, Peace and Security
- Women and the Conflict in Gender Equality in Afghanistan
- UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict
- UNIFEM portal on documents related to women and conflict: http://www.womenwarpeace.org
- UNIFEM, Gender Profile of the Conflict in DR Congo: http://www.womenwarpeace.org/docs/drc_archive.pdf