SPECIAL REPORT: 48 women raped every hour in eastern Congo
Region is referred to by the UN as 'rape capitol of the world.'
The eastern expense of the Democratic Republic of Congo is known for many things. The good being the lush and diverse tropical environment, some of the most beautiful land in all Africa. The bad, being the near constant violence that ravages the region. But then there's the ugly -- rarely reported in the media, because it isn't just common -- it's regular, and that is the prevalence of rape.
According to the United Nations, eastern Congo is "the rape capital of the world." UN statistics say that 48 women are raped every hour. The crime is never punished.
The systematic rapes are often perpetrated by rebels dedicated to overthrowing the government, but unable to achieve success. The conflict has been ongoing for decades and despite a cease-fire in 2003, the fighting and the rapes have continued.
Many women are left with a simple and brutal choice. They can stay home where they are safe and starve, or they can go out to the fields and work and place themselves at risk of rape. It is a common occurrence, an everyday one -- that women working in the fields are at some point approached by armed rebels and forced into sex. In some cases, the rebels have even organized actual camps dedicated to raping women. Women are kidnapped and housed in these facilities, virtual concentration camps for the sole purpose of rape.
The nature of these assaults goes well beyond what most would recognize as singular acts of sexual depravity, and have become deeds of unspeakable horror. The rapes are not limited to simply one man assaulting one woman. Women can sometimes be assaulted by multiple men, and they can be brutalized with objects, including sticks, rifle barrels, and on occasion, even bayonets.
Eventually these systematic rapes result in pregnancy. Families often do not want the children that result, leaving the mothers to care for their children alone. Those that can, often help from the outside, flee the region and try to make new lives elsewhere. But those women are the exception.
The injuries sustained by these women are constantly being treated by volunteer doctors who risk their own lives and well-being to treat the people of eastern Congo. Meanwhile, the government does virtually nothing to help the people, and the rebels rather than cracking down on their own soldiers, wholeheartedly endorse the practice as a means of subjugating the population.
In fact, some of the women who are raped today are children of rapes that occurred almost a generation ago, so the epidemic is now generational.
In some horrifying cases, rebels have even been known to take men, and sometimes babies in their efforts to terrorize the people.
Unfortunately, the complex political situation, the lack of international attention, and the fact that eastern Congo is virtually inaccessible to the outside world means that this very real human disaster is bound to continue unabated, for a very long time to come.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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