African business, politics and lifestyle
Weapons of war
When Hillary Clinton visited the Democratic Republic of Congo in August, she spoke out against rape and said women should not be used as “weapons of war”.
The Secretary of State wanted Congo’s government to do more to stop sexual violence and prosecute offenders in an area where armed groups still use rape to terrorise local people seven years after the war was meant to have ended.
In Kiwanja in eastern Congo, counsellors are trying to rebuild the lives of rape victims, both women and men.
A 62-year-old widow, who does not want to give her real name, says she was attacked and repeatedly raped by a group of youths, who also killed her 20-year-old son.
“Esther” has already received medical help at a local hospital and is now being treated for psychological trauma.
Counsellor Mariette Paluku Nzaira says it is vital for rape victims to seek help.
“The advantage of counselling centres like this one is that when someone faces these kinds of problems they feel unworthy,” she told Reuters Africa Journal. “Often when the husband finds out he chases his wife away.”
For men such as “Francois” who have been raped, counselling is also important if they are to make sense of what has happened to them.
“Men who are raped have a feeling of anger. They are wondering how this could have
happened to them,” said counsellor Katungo Kilauri
“It is important for victims to go for counselling because when you have a problem and you don’t speak to someone about it, you can die. When you let out what is in your heart, the bad feelings go away.”
These counsellors are trying to raise awareness of sexual violence by encouraging more people to talk about it.
But is that enough? Human rights groups say hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped in Congo in the past decade by government forces and rebels. The perpetrators are almost never brought to justice.