Here in America, rape is considered a crime that can be brought to court and even held on trial in hopes of reaching a sense of justice for the act, but in the Congo, where women have no access to political and economic power, rape is considered to be the norm, and there is no sense of justice.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is a current war that is strictly against women, which means that the men in the renegade government military units and myriad militias use rape as a form of weapon to create fear within the community and to spread disease which will in turn end with death. This war is to be considered the deadliest conflict since World War II, according to a 60 minutes special, killing more than 4 million people. Women of all ages are subject to these horrific acts, ranging from 3 years old to 75 years of age. These men don’t seem to let any woman go untouched.
Most of the women and young girls are gang raped; one after another each solider will take turns and force themselves onto these women until they are so brutally damaged that they are in need of a trip to a hospital. However, the hospitals here are full with victims like this, and most of them do not receive the treatment that they desperately need.
The men who are raping these women, and ruining families, are men who have fled from Rwanda and made their way into the Congo after taking part in the 1994 massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus; while other men are rebels from Rwanda who are pressured into joining the militia, and some are part of the Congo’s army.
The armed groups that have created this war have been fighting for decades now for materials that include gold, diamonds, copper and tin. About 500,000 people were uprooted in the last year to different protected camps in hopes of freeing themselves from the fear of these men. Yet even in the camps women still getting raped on a daily basis. The spouses tend to end up leaving their wives after the rape occurs because they are ashamed they were not able to protect them and their family. Most women end up alone and even more fearful for their safety and the safety of their children, especially the young girls. These women are not only left with the feeling of embarrassment, torment or sense of loneliness after the torture occurs, but they can fall sick with HIV/AIDS, or end up pregnant from their attacker.
Some militias will make a woman’s family member such as brother, father or husband rape her or force the woman to eat the flesh of a deceased relative. But the husbands are not the only ones that end up witnessing these heinous acts of violence. The rest of the community is forced to watch the entire rape happen. People of both sexes, young and old are lined up to witness the rape in order for them to see how much power these men have over their community. To make matters worse, these rapes are not only done in public and with several different men, but they also involve the insertion of objects such as bottles and guns. The pain is not the only thing that is of concern, as these objects tend to cause harm and can then give these women infections which can lead to sickness and even death. Unfortunately after this occurs, many women are unable to control their bodily functions and fluids, which may cause many terminal situations, and with the lack of hospital support, these women hardly have a fighting chance.
For the women who do survive, they are unable to seek any justice for what has happened to them since the jails are taken over by the inmates. There are now no guards or gates that keep these prisoners locked up and out of public’s reach, so there are no cases that are brought to trial, let alone to court.
Today, doctors in the Congo are working with the doctors from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) to help save these women’s lives after the sexual abuse has occurred. The clinic in the Congo treats around 3,600 women a year and that is why the collaboration with the HHI is so important. The clinic works with doctors who have the experience and knowledge to heal these women by teaching, and working closely with, the clinic while in the operating room.
So what can be done? And the Women Gather is an online and offline community for women all over the world, providing mentors, empowerment and information on anything from business to spirituality. This company is made for women and provides breaking news issues at social networking events to help raise awareness. You can take a stand by joining these women to reach empowerment and to make a difference in your life, your community and the world.
And the Women Gather will be taking their first trip to the Congo in October in hopes of helping bring some sort of relief to the women and children there. They will be working in conjunction with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and the Panzi Hospital to raise money to provide help with fistulas, when a women’s bladder or rectum is attached to the vagina after her rape, which can cost $400 per person. The purpose of this trip is to find out and understand what the women in the Congo really need in order to help them stay safe, healthy and find happiness.
The president of And the Women Gather, Lorna Owens states, “Overall we want to set up a cooperative for the women. They can work there, and we will provide healthcare, childcare and one hot meal per day.” Owens explains that while she understands they have a long way to go, she knows this group will be able to offer some assistance. “The plan is a work in progress until we return from the Congo October. In the meantime we are raising money for our trip.”
Take Action: Contact And the Women Gather today to help the women in the Congo get a fighting chance. And the Women Gather have a program called, Footprint Foundation that helps support women all over the world so you are able to get involved today.