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War Within the War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo

NCJ Number
Date Published
122 pages
This book discusses the sexual violence against women and girls that takes place in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo within the context of the war.
As military activities in the Congo increase, so do rapes and other crimes against women and girls. Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war by most of the forces on both sides involved in the conflict. Girls and women are raped by the soldiers and combatants as part of a more general attack in which they kill and injure civilians and destroy their property. In cases where there is no larger attack, individuals or small groups of soldiers and combatants rape women and girls whom they find in the fields, in the forest, along the roads, or in their homes. Women, driven by poverty, continue to keep their families alive by going to the fields, the forest, and the markets at the risk of being sexually attacked. In many cases, women and girls are abducted by combatants, who take them to their bases where they force then to provide sexual services and domestic labor. These crimes are not just carried out by armed factions but by police and others in positions of authority and power. Some courts do function and have punished cases of rape by private citizens. But neither police nor judicial authorities pursue rape cases seriously when involving soldiers and other combatants. Few women bring charges against rapists because they know there is little chance of justice and they fear social stigma. This also keeps them from seeking medical attention. Many women were exposed not just to AIDS but to other sexually transmitted diseases. They have not been able to receive appropriate medical treatment. Many women and girls will never recover from the physical, psychological, and social effects of these assaults. A significant number become pregnant as a result of rape and now struggle to provide for the children they have borne. Some women have been rejected by their husbands and families. As long as the climate of impunity persists, women and girls will continue to be targeted. 2 appendixes