The young girl whispered in a hushed tone. She looked down as she spoke, only glancing up from her dark round eyes every now and then. She wanted to tell more, but she was too ashamed. She was just 9 years old when, she says, Congolese soldiers gang-raped her on her way to school. …
The United Nations estimates 200,000 women and girls have been raped in Congo over the last 12 years, when war broke out with Rwanda and Uganda backing Congolese rebels seeking to oust then-Congo President Laurent Kabila. Rape became a weapon of war, aid groups say.
“It is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman or girl,” says Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch who has spent the last 10 years focusing on Congo. “These are often soldiers and combatants deliberately targeting women and raping them as a strategy of war, either to punish a community, to terrorize a community or to humiliate them.”
Most times, the women are raped by at least two perpetrators. “Sometimes, that is done in front of the family, in front of the children,” Van Woudenberg says. She sighs, “What causes men to rape — I wish I had an answer to that.”
I’m glad that my former boss, Hillary Clinton, is there speaking out forcefully about this issue. We need to draw more attention to it.
More from my Dispatch co-blogger, Alanna.