The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo

Rape is used as a weapon of war in the DR Congo and in other conflicts throughout the world. Why?

The answer has less to do with ancient notions of of “spoils of war” or sexual gratification, although this does play a part, and more to do with an escalation of the discrimination and violence faced by women in peacetime. The nature of most of the conflicts taking place in the world today namely ethnic and/or clan warfare have also contributed to an increase in this sort of violence.

In ethnic conflicts rape is often used as a way for attackers to destroy communities and redraw ethnic boundaries. Women are the reproducers and caretakers of the community. Rape is part of a strategy of ethnic cleansing. Women and girls are raped so that they will give birth to a baby of the opposing ethnic group. In this way one group tries to destroy the other by changing the ethnic composition of that group.

Rape destroys communities and and also increases the risk of infection with HIV/AIDS. Women and girls who are raped often do not to return to their homes because of fears of further attacks or because they have been rejected by their families. As families and communities break up, their land can be appropriated by their aggressors.

Perhaps worst of all is that women and girls raped in conflicts seldom receive justice or help to heal their physical and emotional wounds, even after the conflict is resolved. There is a reluctance to acknowledge that systematic rape has occurred as a strategy of war and therefore a tendency to view it individually, case by case as an issue between the woman and her attacker.  In many countries the collapse of government and the rule of law allow perpetrators to rape with impunity. Finally, fear of stigma keeps many women and girls from coming forward to accuse their attackers or seek help.

Women’s lives and their bodies have been the unacknowledged casualties of war for too long.
Amnesty’s Lives Blown Apart report

Visit to find out what actions you can take to break “The Greatest Silence.”


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