Africa Asia Middle East Français Português Subscribe IRIN Site Map
Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis
Advanced search
 Wednesday 03 October 2007
Weekly reports 
In-Depth reports 
Country profiles 
Fact files 
Really Simple Syndication Feeds 
About PlusNews 
Contact PlusNews 
Print report
DRC: Call to address sexual violence in the east

Photo: Georgina Cranston/IRIN
About 4,500 rapes were reported in South Kivu in the first six months of 2007
NAIROBI, 14 September 2007 (PlusNews) - The international community must take urgent action to eliminate rampant sexual violence in war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Stephen Lewis, former UN special envoy for AIDS in Africa, has said.

"The contagion of sexual violence on the African continent is blood-chilling, and nowhere more so than in the eastern DRC," Lewis said at a press conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on 13 September. "Despite this, there seems to be unwillingness among the international community to take action."

He noted that while the world focused, understandably, on the crisis in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, eastern DRC - which has suffered 10 to 20 times more casualties than Darfur over the course of its decade-long war - had fallen off the agenda.

"Nowhere on this planet is such a holocaust of horror visited on women and girls," Lewis said.

In July, Yakin Erturk, special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on Violence against Women, said an estimated 4,500 cases of rape had been reported in the eastern province of South Kivu in the first six months of 2007 alone, with many more going unreported. She noted that sexual violence was perceived as “normal” by local communities.

Lewis also criticised the Kinshasa-based government of President Joseph Kabila for having neither the "capacity nor the commitment" to deal with sexual violence in the east.

"Kinshasa has very little influence over the marauding gangs in the east," he said. "Sadly, the perpetrators of the violence are often men in uniform."

Lewis said “predictable” measures such as increased troop numbers and the involvement of the International Criminal Court were inadequate in the face of the scale of brutality in the DRC. He noted that a “dramatic departure” from traditional measures was necessary to tackle the problem head-on.
If we don't do something, and soon, HIV/AIDS and violence against women are destined to win

''If we don't do something, and soon, HIV/AIDS and violence against women are destined to win''
"Crises driven by the oppression of women do not simply fade away if they are ignored. They explode," he said. "The AIDS virus thrives on armed conflict. Sexual violence thrives on armed conflict.

"If we don't do something, and soon, HIV/AIDS and violence against women are destined to win," he added. The DRC has an HIV prevalence of 3.2 percent; provision of HIV education and treatment has been severely limited by the war in the east.

Lewis recommended that an international agency for women be created within the UN system.

"Such an organisation, headed by an under-secretary general, would ensure that women's issues were not ignored," he said. "We also need to convene female experts on rape to come up with recommendations for the situation in the Congo because the world seems to be at a loss as to how to handle it."

War broke out in the DRC in 1998, and although the country held successful national elections in 2006, various militia groups continue to terrorise civilians in many areas of the east.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Gender - PlusNews, (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Print report
FREE Subscriptions
Your e-mail address:

Submit your request
 More on DRC
GLOBAL: US company sues American Red Cross over use of Red Cross emblem
ISRAEL-AFRICA: Deportation of 50 Africans sparks concern
IRIN: Today's most popular IRIN articles
DRC: Jacqueline Kingombe, "I couldn't believe that my own sister would throw me out"
DRC: Stigma hampers fight against HIV/AIDS in South Kivu
 More on Gender - PlusNews
SOUTH AFRICA: The trials and tribulations of community involvement in research
INDONESIA: Cheap sex, high risk - the challenge of AIDS prevention
SOUTHERN AFRICA: The effect of migration on HIV rates
AFRICA: MPs must push for women's access to health services
SOUTH AFRICA: Microbicide trials - what's in it for participants?
Back | Home page

Services:  Africa | Asia | Middle East | Radio | Film & TV | Photo | E-mail subscription
Feedback · E-mail Webmaster · IRIN Terms & Conditions · Really Simple Syndication News Feeds · About PlusNews · Bookmark PlusNews · Donors

Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.