Rape in Congo: It’s Not Part of Their Culture… It’s Wrong and Needs to Stop

Image from AFP/Getty Images

“You don’t consider rape a security threat…Rape here is so common…It’s cultural.”  

After reading that quote, are you stunned?  Well, if your reaction is a blank stare, a furrowed eyebrow, and a thought somewhere along the lines of, “who in their right mind would think rape is cultural,” you are thinking clearly and, might I add, correctly.

The comment above was made by a European woman who was working for the United Nations to convince refugees residing in Tanzania that it was safe to return home to Congo.  While she encouraged Congolese women to return home because it was “safe,” she was only referring to foreign militias being gone, and not the looting or rapes that were still happening to women and girls in eastern Congo.  As a matter of fact, she indicated that rapes and looting were not considered attacks. WOW…really?  I beg to differ.

First, let me say the numerous rapes occurring in Congo should not be labeled “cultural.” This violence is considered among the worst on the planet.  According to a recent article, the United Nations approximates that there have been hundreds of thousands of Congolese women gang-raped, tortured, and held as sexual slaves since 1998.  That number daily for women rape victims estimates to around 40.  How can such violence be so imbedded in a society’s traditions that it is considered culture?  Clearly, this is not a part of Congo culture, but rather it is a crime being perpetrated on innocent women and girls and committed by Congolese soldiers everyday who go unpunished.

As a result of the constant rapes in Congo, many women and girls are living in fear everyday within their own communities. Fear in your own community, your own home, should not be part of your culture.  In another  recent article, many women stated that fear of the Congolese soldiers and their surrounding neighbors are their primary concern.  Consequently, this fear often manifests itself in these women and girls as serious mental and physical health problems.

Rape, terror, and violence against women and girls should not be deemed part of any country’s culture.  To do that implies that it is inevitable and it creates barriers that keep others from getting involved and making a change.  After reading many articles regarding women in Congo, it makes me further understand why it is imperative to stand up against sexual violence.  Sadly, rape and sexual violence is affecting thousands, if not, millions of women around the world.  We all need to get involved to not only bring attention to the issue, but to make sure action is taken to stop the violence.  Then people like the European woman mentioned earlier will no longer dismiss the atrocities like the rapes in Congo merely cultural, and see them for what they really are – crimes.

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One Comment

  1. Katherine
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink | Reply

    Just a thought, if we are “raping”/destroying all the beauty/heart of the world, what’s left?… (Man’s strength and cold/darkness…???) Where’s the good/Godly men who’s strength to fight against other men who would abuse it? Do we have them to spreadout, to busy with other worldly affairs to help or is it a greater human problem? I am concerned about where we haven’t gone in the world to fight for an age old problem, or is that the real issue. Rape has been around so long that we just look at it as “part of our culture”? I think it’s definitely more than a Congo problem.

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