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Despite the peace agreement from 2003, armed conflicts has continued to flare up in the eastern parts of DR Congo, and especially civilians in rural areas have been targets for sexual violence. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Anna Lithander.
Despite the peace agreement from 2003, armed conflicts has continued to flare up in the eastern parts of DR Congo, and especially civilians in rural areas have been targets for sexual violence. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Anna Lithander.

Actions on sexual violence for Congolese military forces

DR Congo has adopted an action plan to battle sexual violence in conflict committed by members of its own national military force, FARDC.
”Addressing oppressive masculinities in the army should be a priority. Soldiers and police officers come from a patriarchal society and behave as they have been taught,” comments Muthaka Ilot Alphonse, executive director of Congo Men’s Network.

Since the end of the 1990’s, when reports started coming about severe sexual violence used as a war strategy in DR Congo, the country has been in the midst of most international discussions concerning these crimes. The war officially ended in 2002, but in eastern DR Congo outbursts of armed conflict have remained. Despite many efforts to battle the high incidence of rape and other sexual violence, attacks against civilians have continued.

Sexual violence in DR CongoViolence against women is one of the most widespread human rights abuses in the world. In Congo two out of three women are expected to be physically or sexually abused during their lifetime.

The last major conflicts in DR Congo occurred in 1997 and 1998-2002, but in the eastern part of the country outbursts of armed conflicts has continued, including attacks on civilians. During this whole period, a large number of women have been subjected to sexual violence.

Many female victims of rape are ostracised by their families, which puts them in a very difficult situation, not least financially. Many also become infected with HIV/AIDS.

International pressure

Muthaka Ilot Alphonse believes that the action plan for FARDC is a result of pressure from the international community on the Congolese government, after many cases of sexual violence have been attributed to the national army and police.

Muthaka Ilot Alphonse

Muthaka Ilot Alphonse. Photo: engagingmen.net.

”This plan is a positive action since it may contribute significantly to end sexual violence in conflicts and post conflicts settings,” he says.

However, Muthaka Ilot Alphonse worries that not enough resources will be allocated in the national budget to implement the plan. This, he says, has been the case with the national action plan regarding UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security that was adopted in 2010.

Target aggressive masculinity

Besides targeting the sexual violence appearing in conflict situations, Muthaka Ilot Alphonse also wants to see a more comprehensive approach to all sexual violence in Congolese society – with actions taken against aggressive images of masculinity

Congo Men’s NetworkCongo Men’s Network was founded four years ago, with the mission to ”mobilize Congolese men to support women’s leadership, end men’s violence and act as role models for positive masculinity”.

Muthaka Ilot Alphonse is a former participant of the International Training Programme on UN resolution 1325 that Kvinna till Kvinna runs together with Indevelop.

”Recent studies have shown that civilians constitute 70% of rapists. Sexual violence has many causes; traditions, culture, religion and the patriarchal heritage that pushes men not to consider women as human beings. Many men, with no exception of police officers, politicians, judges, do not consider sexual violence as being a human rights violation,” he says.

Prevention necessary

Susanna Rudehill, field representative for The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation in DR Congo, agrees with Muthaka Ilot Alphonse’s analysis.

“Given the devastating consequences violence has had for women in DR Congo much focus has been directed towards helping survivors. But to put an end to violence against women, it is necessary to work with prevention. The most effective way to prevent violence against women and girls is to target the root causes of that violence; the unequal social norms and gender roles. This is what we and our partner organisations address in our work,” she says.

“The plan is welcome, women of DR Congo now expect it to be put into practice!”

 Malin Ekerstedt

Updated in: 2014-12-02