Mass rape in north and south Kivu provinces from 1996-2001: understanding the reasons for ongoing sexual violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo conflicts.
Kilimani, Lambo II.
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This study investigates the factors behind the mass rape of women from 1996-2001 in North and South Kivu provinces during the 1996-2003 armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Atrocities against women have always been a significant concern in feminist agendas and discourses. In time of peace as in time of war, women remain at the center stage of male violence. The Democratic Republic of Congo conflicts are reported to have killed more people than in Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur combined. Sexual violence against women in North and South Kivu, DRC is believed to be the worst in the world. Women in these two provinces were raped, forced into prostitution, mutilated, and to some extent, subjected to further inhumane acts such as shooting and the introduction of objects into their private parts. HIV and AIDS, and other sexual transmitted diseases constitute some of the extra diagnosis associated with the victims. Yet, to date, no one understands why these women continue to be raped on a daily basis. The 1996-2003 Congo conflict has witnessed the involvement of several countries such as Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Yet, none of these interventionist countries have ever condemned sexual atrocities committed against women in DRC, in general and in North and South Kivu, in particular. Despite having a democratically elected government and legitimate institutions such as courts of law and tribunals, crimes of this kind committed against women continue unabated. The policies of militarism and wars either intended for regime change or in the pursuit of the world's resources have increased the threat of armed conflicts which expose women to rape. The continuation of sexual violence in these two provinces has led to the view by many media groups and humanitarian organizations that rape is used as a weapon of war. The Constitution of the DRC prior to the conflict was biased towards women. The post conflict Constitution approved in February 2006 is theoretically accommodating of gender-based discrimination. Nationally, impunity for rape perpetrators has become a norm. Internationally, rape has long been mischaracterized and diminished by military and political leaders which lead to the belief that there is a strong undercurrent of patriarchal phenomenon involving many global institutions of power. The implication of discriminating, gender-based provisions in the constitution and the failure to implement policies that empower women has most of the time strengthened the social construction of masculinity and its idolization which are perceived as the social roots of violence against women during wartime. In many armed conflicts similar to that of the North and South Kivu, women have always been the victims. Yet, men involved in combat have often negotiated peace between themselves rather than justice for the victims. Justice for women in this part of the world remains elusive.