By Lisa Anammah
The Democratic Republic of Congo has been labeled as the worst place on earth to be born a woman. Each day women in the Congo live with the constant fear of being victims of brutal and often sexual assaulted. This fear is propounded by the fact that being a married woman, teenage girl or even an infant child doesn’t provide security from victimization. The plight of these women is so great that experiencing rape just once in a lifetime is considered as ‘lucky’. A study carried out by the International Food Policy Research institute at Stony Brook University and the World Bank claimed that about 48 women in the Congo are victims of rape every hour. Congo’s long running war that has hit its eastern part the hardest has brought with it a dramatic rise in the incidence of rape against women, children and men in the region. To quantify the gravity of the situation, research shows that an estimated 12% of the women in the Republic have been raped at least once. Difficulties in extracting the real figures due to victims fear of being harassed or ostracized poses a liability to these figures rendered by research groups as the data provided often times falls below actual figures. In fact further study of the actual victim counts have shown that previous UN estimates of 16,000 rape victims fell short by a factor of 26( that is the actual figures are 26 times higher than 16,000). The rapes have been strongly linked to the ongoing war between rebel groups for underground mineral wealth in the DCR and the weak and corrupt government. Sexual violence against women has become a very widely used weapon of war by rebel groups to assert their power against enemy factions and also a means by which they garner acquiescence in villages they loot for war supplies. The violence is not exclusively targeted at women and teenage girls but also infants and boys. In Norther Kivu alone, a study shows that 65% of the rape victims were young girls and a shocking 10% of the children victims in the region were below the age of 10. A 2010 study showed that 22% of men in eastern Congo reported as victims of sexual violence related to the ongoing conflict. An increasing new form of rape takes place within the home whereby men force women into sexual intercourse against their will or as a form of punishment when they feel disobeyed. The studies conducted by Stony brook university show that an estimated 22% of the rape reports of the victims have been of husbands raping wives. This new form of rape goes beyond the ongoing conflicts but extends to underlying gender inequalities in the Congo. A survey conducted showed that 43% of Congolese men believed women deserved to be raped if the refused sexual interactions. 40% believed that women asked to be raped by their mode of dressing. Traditional belief systems also contribute to the rape crimes. Most men, especially rebel fighters see rape as a method by which they can assert control. Beliefs that sexual violence against women of minority ethnic groups bolsters success in war have prompted some of the violence against women by members of the rebel military forces. Some of these beliefs hold that raping an infant is a cure for AIDS this belief exposes the dangers of both a lack education and a working health care provider in the communities. Other socioeconomic factors play a role in the large rape counts. Weak Congolese government amounts to a poor enforcement body so a lot of the rape perpetrators are allowed to go scott free as they are out of reach by law enforcement bodies. The few perpetrators that are convicted are often allowed to go after a few days of imprisonment due to the weak judicial system that can’t put together trials. Poverty also plays an influential role. Statistics show that 40% men and 43% women in the Congo live below the poverty line and eat one meal a day. Lack of money amounts to men who cannot afford wives asserting dominance over women’s’ bodies through forced sexual intercourse.