Mass rape in eastern Congo keeps happening

As Courtney mentioned in the What We Missed last week, dozens women were raped in a coordinated attack in Fizi, South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo on New Year’s Day.

The war in Congo, which has stretched on more than a dozen years now, has killed more people than the Holocaust and earned the region the awful reputation as the rape capital of the world. Horrific attacks like this one are, sadly, nothing new. The Guardian reports:

“The United Nations says rape is a frequent weapon of war in Congo. Around 15,000 women were raped in eastern Congo in 2009. It is believed that many cases go unreported.

In September, a UN report condemned Congo’s security forces for failing prevent a mass rape last summer.

It confirmed the rape of at least 240 people between 30 July and 4 August in the Walikale region of Congo’s North Kivu province by Rwandan and Congolese rebels in a brazen attack near a UN peacekeepers’ base.

The reported victims in previous attacks ranged from a month-old baby boy to a 110-year-old woman.”

Doctors Without Borders, which treated 33 women after the New Year’s Day attack, said “many women are afraid to seek treatment because of fear of being stigmatised by their families, or the risk of further harassment by armed groups.” They also reported there is no sign that security in the region is improving. “People are fleeing the area fearing further violent attacks,” said the head of the mission, Annemarie Loof.

I don’t even really know how to write about this–because it’s been going on for so long and just keeps happening. Activists on the ground–including the brave Justine Masika Bihumba, coordinator of Synergy of Women Against Sexual Violence, a network of 35 women’s organizations in the region–say that, above all, the women of Congo need peace. And for that there needs to be greater international pressure to finally end this terrible conflict.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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