By Cornelia Walther BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 18 January 2011 – Maria, 20, whispers as she recounts being raped by soldiers two days before Christmas. One after the other they went over me, in front of my son and husband. “The second time I died was when my husband refused to touch my body or the food I had prepared for him.” Sexual violence is present across DR Congo.
In the conflict-affected east, it has been used as a weapon of war, systematically destroying hopes for social rehabilitation.
Victoire* is one of the hundreds of victims of sexual and gender-based violence assisted by 15 legal clinics run by NGOs and supported by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (JHRO) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Sexual violence takes place in schools, homes and workplaces all over the country.
Recently, however, women have been speaking up on the issue.
National and international organizations have also expanded the monitoring of sexual violence, providing qualified assistance to survivors.
“Lack of education has a direct link to mutual disrespect,” he adds.
For a long time, many people in DR Congo considered violence against women and girls a standard component of daily life.