A psychologist in a Congo hospital says decades of war have produced a rape-friendly culture with a double standard, Dominique Soguel reports. While perpetrators go unpunished the victims, including children, are ostracized. Amnesty International has issued a new warning. Twenty-five-year-old Mywazo is the proud mother of two. But she doubts her husband can ever accept that about her. Not after what happened.
For three and a half years, beginning in 2004, Mywazo was held hostage in the forests surrounding her village. There she was raped by men she identifies as Interhamwe, Hutu militias linked to Rwanda's genocide and implicated in rape-and-pillage attacks on villages in the border provinces of North and South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
'The first days, all the men slept with everyone,' Mywazo told Women's eNews. 'Then each chose a woman to keep. They cut the sex of the women they killed and hung it on their tent walls. I despaired. Each day, I expected to die.'
Mywazo, whose last name is withheld for safety reasons, comes from a small farming village in Walungu, near Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu. In this densely forested area, rapes remained rampant this year despite a January peace agreement between the Congolese government and diverse armed groups operating in North and South Kivu.
Women's eNews interviewed Mywazo in mid-August when she fretted about her livelihood and safety if she returned home to her husband. Since then, the situation in eastern Congo has further deteriorated. On Aug. 28, renegade Gen. Laurent Nkunda clashed with the Congolese army in Goma, North Kivu, breaking the tenuous ceasefire. At least 100,000 people have been displaced over the past five weeks.
Last week London-based Amnesty International issued the latest warning, saying thousands of women are being raped and child soldiers brutalized amid renewed fighting in Goma.
In some eastern regions of Congo as many as 70 percent of girls and women of all ages have been raped or sexually mutilated, according to the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, a research center at Harvard University. Over 2,200 new rape cases were recorded in North Kivu, a July report of the Congo Advocacy Coalition--a network of 64 international and local aid agencies and rights groups--indicated. The South Kivu Provincial Synergy on Sexual Violence, a coalition of representatives from government, the United Nations and civil society, recorded 4,500 sexual violence cases in the first six months of this year.