Rape Rampant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Monday, November 10, 2008 12:14 PM

After years of impunity, silence and shame, the crime of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is finally being discussed. In a country in the midst of war since 1996, some studies estimate that hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, which according to the United Nations makes the DRC the country with the worst rape problem in the world.


The government and international organizations are trying to improve the situation, including through prosecutions and punishments for perpetrators. New courthouses are being built in the eastern part of the country and even mobile courts are going into more remote areas, in part to try rapists. The American Bar Association’s legal clinic, open since January 2008, has helped secure eight convictions. In Bukavu, the DRC’s largest city, a special police unit has filed over 100 rape cases since January 2008, which is more than any other year in recent memory. In the town of Burnia, rape prosecutions rose 600 percent this year as compared to 2003.


Community education and involvement is also improving. The U.N. and NGOs held a conference in September in Eastern Congo on the problem of rape. The campaign, Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to Women and Girls in DRC, was a two-day event held in two cities featuring rape survivor panelists who told their stories to the public as a call to end violence against women.


However, the culture of rape is still problematic. Many rapists are never found, including some who are involved in fighting and live in forested areas. Moreover, rape victims are often afraid to speak out because their communities may not support them due to the perceived shame of their situation.


Compiled from: Gettleman, Jeffrey, Rape Victims’ Words Help Jolt Congo Into Change, New York Times (17 October 2008);


DRC Rape Survivors Break Their Silence: Call for an End to Sexual Violence in the DRC, UNICEF Press Centre (22 September 2008);


Kimani, Mary, Congolese women confront legacy of rape, Africa Renewal, United Nations, Vol. 20 #4, p. 4 (January 2007);


McCrummen, Stephanie, Prevalence of Rape in E. Congo Described as Worst in World, Washington Post Foreign Service, p. A19 (9 September 2007).