Democratic Republic of Congo: UN Urges Victims of Rape to Seek Legal Punishment of Offenders
Monday, March 1, 2010 3:00 PM


In Katange, a southeast province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, United Nations staff have been working on educating women about their rights in cases of sexual violence. Unlike other eastern provinces of the DRC, where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war, in this relatively stable region, rape has largely persisted due to the ignorance of the population and the inaccessibility of the judiciary.

Although prohibited by Congolese law, acts of rape and sexual assault cases are often settled according to customs. In kind and cash compensation is often given to purify the image of the girl who has been dishonored.

At a recent gathering in the village of Mwitwobe, Ashraf Sebbabi, who works for the human rights division of the UN mission in DR Congo (MONUC), reminded attendees that rape is punishable by law in the DRC. Sebbabi encouraged rape victims to take three steps after sexual assault: seek medical care within three days and take an HIV test; go to a non-governmental organization working in human rights; and, most importantly, file charges against the aggressor.

Strongly discouraging amicable agreements, Sebbabi believes that “once people understand that they can spend at least five years in prison, mentalities will begin to change” (AFP).

Compiled from: David Youant, “UN Teaches DR Congo Women to Tackle Rape,” AFP (14 February 2010).