Armed groups operate in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and many of them—as well as members of the Congolese security forces—have been perpetrators of sexual violence, Human Rights Watch reports. These armed groups are abducting and holding Congolese women and girls as sex slaves, taking victims by force with machetes and other weapons before or after raping them.
Girls as young as 2 and women older than 80 have been targeted, as well as some men and boys, HRW maintains. Many victims developed serious medical complications following the rape, frequently dying from their wounds.
The men, women, and children who survive are then coerced to work in mineral mines by soldiers in the name of profit, reports the BBC.
These mines are under the control of various armed militia groups and the Congolese National Army and contain precious minerals like tantalum, coltan, cassiterite, wolframite, and gold, TechRepublic reports. These minerals are used in many of the electronic items we used today and are therefore in great demand.
To obtain these resources at the greatest margin of profit to themselves, the soldiers are using physical and sexual force to subvert the civilians into excavating the minerals for them.
According to the UN, many of the former militia leaders found guilty of committing these crimes have been imprisoned, but court-ordered reparations have yet to be paid to the many who have been victimized. Judicial investigations into serious violations attributed to the armed forces between 2016 and 2019 confirmed the widespread use of sexual violence by the military during operations carried out in communities perceived to be supporting friendly militias.
Congolese women are bold and courageous, yet they are forced to live under the dual cloak of politically-imposed silence as well as silence due to their gender and bear the responsibility of maintaining their families in a context of diminishing resources and increased sexual violence, especially in conflict zones, the Global Fund for Women reports.
The United Nations has launched a helpline for victims of sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC, but it is not enough. Stand up for the women of the DRC. Click below to send a message Congress asking them to solidify legislation addressing these heinous crimes against humanity.Whizzco