Breaking the Silence in War-torn Dr Congo

By Mugisho Theophile

"We have to break the silence that exists among the people of my country"


The awareness on household violence within DR Congo is lacking, misunderstood and often goes unreported.

Information and awareness on domestic violence is a  much needed debate within this country. The continuation of this horrible situation leads to some terrible life experiences and tragic consequences.

Violence, whether at home or caused by war, generates indescribable suffering. As we look around us, we can see the increase in the numbers of single mothers and homeless children. When household violence persists, it may very well lead to the couple separating. This has many consequences for the woman, the children and the family.

Violence in the home and violence caused by war have led to increases in the spread of HIV and AIDS.

In the home, the husband can be coercive or even forceful in making his wife have sex with him. Through this type of abuse and the fact that women are not empowered to refuse their husbands, it has led to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. This may be because the husband has been unfaithful.

In some areas of the DRC the women cannot speak out against their husbands and this leads to unresolved issues.

For example; what is awful about this type of situation is the fact that once the wife has been infected; the husband refuses to accept the situation and can choose not to take a HIV test. The wife who dares to raise this issue with her husband is abused by him, accused of prostitution, and faces possible stigmatization. So she keeps quiet to avoid conflict that may culminate in brutality.

The other situation that may occur is, when one of the partners is HIV infected, it is often the wife who is accused. This will bring shame on her and may end up with her being kicked of her home by her husband’s family. In other situations, if one partner gets AIDS, instead of seeking medical care the people go around saying that the person concerned has been bewitched. With such beliefs the person remains in agony, with failing health until they die. They spend all their time and money going to wizards and witches.

Outbreak of AIDS is often due to violence in the home and at war

This outbreak of AIDS, which is sweeping away many of the people, men and women in the villages, is often due to violence at home and the violence caused by the atrocities of war.

Rape and sexual assault go beyond women being raped. We also witness in the DRC men and boys also being raped either at home or during conflict. This may be committed by people who are known to them as well as complete strangers. All these terrible crimes help to spread AIDS throughout our society.


Giving women a voice will help stop the abuse and manipulation

My objective here is to challenge these destructive traditions and break down barriers to communication. However, it is my greatest hope and belief that I am beginning to break down these walls that surround the women which stifle them from having a voice, whether they are in the villages or in towns. Such a situation allows the manipulation and abuse of women and girls to continue. This outdated mode of behaviour is persistently devastating to the self esteem of women.

If all the women could stand united right now and say NO to these odious actions directed toward them, the men who support them would not feel their efforts are in vain.

I strongly urge everyone from around the world to stand hand in hand and tell the world in one voice..."WE SAY NO TO VIOLENCE TODAY!"


There exists a multitude of cultures in the DRC; from this it is understood that cultures are what they are; they have something positive in them and something negative.

The latter case should be banned because it is destructive and it weighs negatively more on women than on men. However, what is strange is the comprehension of the reason why these cultures in the DRC are more abusive to women. If we look around us, in other countries for example, they are fighting hard to abolish such practices and negative traditions directed against women, although the struggle continues on.

What I would like to ask is,‘ What matters first? Do we take one small step at a time and gradually lay the foundations for change? Is this how it happens in more widely developed countries?’

It is high time to end the violation of women’s rights. Though some people will challenge this change and wish to hold on to old traditions, brutality, control and violation of the rights of women must end.


"There is no reason to continue carrying out the old traditions of our ancestors"

Sooner or later, provided that we are all committed to rooting out this abuse, our society will change and women will have equal standing with men. There is no reason to continue carrying out the old traditions of our ancestors; time is moving on and we have to move with it.

We have to break the silence that exists among the people of my country and the people of the entire world. Rich and poor countries must unite to put an end to these ancient traditions and negatively held beliefs.

Developed and undeveloped countries are carrying out exactly the same violence but perhaps in different ways. I would often like to ask this question to those who abuse women, ‘Why do you disrespect women? How do you feel when you see them suffering?’


Abuse of women lies in the attitudes of the people themselves

Making women suffer is not necessarily purely the effect of culture and tradition, but it also lies in the behaviour and attitudes of the people themselves. Behaviour is a choice one makes following a given model, perhaps they are learned. If so, they can also be unlearned if one wishes to do so.



Photo: Rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo.