“The indifference the world has shown to the Congo is repulsive,” says Dr. Denis Mukwege, who treats the raped and mutilated women of the Democratic Republic of Congo at Panzi Hospital.
It’s Dr. Mukwege’s position that he’s working in the worst place in the world for women, and none of us care. That’s not true, although I admit that we don’t have good direction on what to do about it.
Conservative estimates report that more than half a million women have been raped overall, with an average of more than 40 a day in South Kivu. A new offensive by the DRC army and UN forces in March to rid the area of Rwandan FDLR fighters set off a fresh wave of killing and human rights abuses. In the first nine months of 2009, more than 7,000 rape cases were recorded in Kivu. A Human Rights Watch report on the offensive states: “Most of the women and girls were gang raped, some so violently that they later died.” via London Times
The situation is as devastating as it sounds. Since the mid-19902 more than five million people have been killed by warring militias in the Congo, ethnic tensions and opportunists from many places fighting over the country’s gold reserves and vast mineral wealth.
The Congo is not a poor country, unlike other parts of the world.
Dr. Mukwege says the rapes are becoming far worse, not only in frequency but also in duration. He now sees cases of women being raped for 24 hours, 48 hours. This is not an exclusively feminist issue. When children grow up surrounded by violence, they become violators themselves, in spite of their original innocence and nonlethal spirits.
The London Times prints stories like Ruth’s, who was tied to a tree and raped by passing soldiers for several days at a time. Dr. Mukwege was able to restore urinary continence and perform a colostomy on Ruth. She does not have a vagina and believes that she is no longer a woman.
Dr. Mukwege not only treats raped and mutilated women of the Congo but he is helping them transition into a new life in the City of Joy, which is a refuge for women, a place where they can heal, rebuild and learn new skills.
American Eve Ensler recently returned from the Congo, where her involvement is a long one. Interviewed by by NYTimes, Deborah Solomon’s questions are stilted and nonemotive. I get the distinct feeling that she doesn’t like Eve Ensler of Vagina Monologue fame.
The City of Joy sounds like the name of a church.
The desire was to create a name that was not about women’s victimization, but about claiming their future. We’ll have a radio station (we hope). We’ll have a huge field that women will plant to grow their own crops; we’ll have therapy; we’ll have dance; we’ll have theater; and women will come for six months, everything paid.
How does a dance workshop help someone in the midst of a civil war?
Dance has a transformative effect on bodily trauma. When you’ve been raped, the trauma lodges itself in your being. Dance is a surefire way to release it.
You treat everything as a problem of self-esteem, as opposed to a complex set of political and economic problems.
The City of Joy is not going to end the war. But if enough leaders come out of it, maybe they’ll end the war. via NYTimes
The London Times, who gives City of Joy far more credence than the NYTimes quotes V-Day UK as hoping to make the DRC’s conflict over minerals as unacceptable as blood diamonds. I agree and will contact the group to see if Anne of Carversville can assist in any way. I’m following this thread from CNN The new blood diamonds?
Please read our prior articles about the tragic, unbearable plight of women in the Congo. Anne
In 2007 Eve Ensler wrote this article for Glamour magazine: Women Left for Dead — and the Man Who’s Saving Them.
How one man gave Congo’s women hope London Times