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By Chris Crowstaff

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), formerly Zaire, is a state located in Central Africa, with a short Atlantic coastline (37 km). It is the third largest country in Africa by area.

In order to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often referred to as DR Congo.

Although citizens of the DRC are among the poorest in the world, having the second lowest nominal GDP per capita, the Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered to be the richest country in the world regarding natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$ 24 trillion. This is the equivalent of the gross domestic product of the United States of America and Europe combined.

War and Violence

The war has made the life of women precarious. Violence against women seems to be perceived by large sectors of society to be normal.

More than 1,100 women are raped every day in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a recent study has concluded, with more than More than 400,000 women and girls between the ages of 15 to 49 raped in the war-ravaged country in central Africa during a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007.

The new study, based on examination of government-collected and nationally representative data from the Democratic Republic of Congo, shows that levels of rape and sexual violence against women in the country are 26 times higher than official United Nations estimates. The study, spearheaded by The Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research, Graduate Program in Public Health, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, is published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Tia M. Palermo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine, Graduate Program in Public Health, and colleagues, found in their analysis that more than 400,000 women ages 15 to 49 in the DRC had experienced rape in a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007. That is the equivalent to 1,152 women raped every day, 48 raped every hour, or four women raped every five minutes.

"Although the burden of sexual violence among these groups is uncertain, a review of the records of 4,133 women attending Panzi Hospital in Sud Kivu showed that six per cent were younger than 16 years and 10 per cent were older than 65 years," the study said.

"Approximately 1.69 to 1.80 million women reported having been raped in their lifetime (with 407 397–433 785 women reporting having been raped in the preceding 12 months), and approximately 3.07 to 3.37 million women reported experiencing intimate partner sexual violence. Reports of sexual violence were largely independent of individual-level background factors. However, compared with women in Kinshasa, women in Nord-Kivu were significantly more likely to report all types of sexual violence."

The study concluded,  "Not only is sexual violence more generalized than previously thought, but our findings suggest that future policies and programs should focus on abuse within families and eliminate the acceptance of and impunity surrounding sexual violence nationwide while also maintaining and enhancing efforts to stop militias from perpetrating rape."

The study, which gathered data from 2007, did not capture sexual violence among girls younger than 15 years or women older than 49 years and did not include sexual violence among boys and men.

In addition, Human Rights Watch reported that sexual violence in 2009 doubled in comparison with 2008. If this assessment is accurate, then the current prevalence of sexual violence is likely to be even higher than these estimates suggest.

In the MAP for May 2011, the NGOWG (NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security) had several recommendations for the Security Council on the current situation in the DRC:

Eastern DRC continues to be characterized by widespread violence against civilians, perpetrated by both government forces and militias, and large-scale displacement. As per SCR 1925 (2010), the Secretary-General is due to present his final report to the Council by 13 May 2011, prior to the expiration of the mandate of MONUSCO (30 June 2011). This report should detail any progress on the ground “with a view of progressively adapting” the UN presence in the DRC, and strengthening the recent efforts of the mission to better protect civilians, including the Joint Protection Teams and Community Liaison Initiatives. Currently, a lack of resources limits their impact. In light of continuing attacks on civilians, including the persistently high levels of sexual violence against women and girls, and the failure to ensure justice, the Council must not introduce any changes in the MONUSCO mandate that would jeopardize the protection of civilians. and the effective application of relevant tactics employed by the Mission, that are showing some promise. These tactics should be expanded, not curtailed.


Al Jazeera English

NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security

American Journal of Public Health

National Council for Research on Women