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Call to Action on Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Last Updated: March 2012

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), all armed parties utilize rampant sexual violence as a weapon of control and terror. The women of the DRC have spoken: they have publicly condemned these intolerable conditions, and they demand specific actions to be taken against the atrocities they experience daily.  As humanitarian, development, professional and human rights organizations, we stand with the people of the DRC, and especially its women, to demand security, justice, and an end to sexual violence. We reiterate their demands here to echo the importance of this call to action back to the international community. We call on the government of the DRC to immediately put a stop to the deplorable epidemic of violence and to actively support its survivors. We further call upon the African Union to pressure the DRC to comply.

We stand with the citizens of the DRC to demand an adequate justice system for the strict application of the law on gender-based violence (GBV). Given the absence of prosecution in the Congolese judiciary in countless cases of rape, mass rape, and child rape by all parties, we endorse the establishment of a special international criminal court to prosecute all GBV crimes in the DRC as crimes against humanity. Along with the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), we call for the provision of more detailed information on the causes, impacts and extent of GBV; preventative measures; investigation and prosecution of perpetrators; and relief and compensation to victims.

We stand with the citizens of the DRC to demand that the tremendous health consequences of sexual violence be recognized and addressed. These consequences include, but are not limited to: the spread of STIs and HIV/AIDS, the loss or mutilation of genitalia, unwanted pregnancies, damage to reproductive health including fistulas, the spread of human trafficking, and social stigma against survivors of these traumas. Needed immediately are improved health policies for women and specialized medical institutions for reproductive health that provide, for example, access to antiretroviral drugs.

We stand with the citizens of the DRC to demand the development of support mechanisms for those who have experienced GBV. Survivors need support to reintegrate into their communities as independent, contributing members of society. Support systems must meet the needs of women’s survival and well-being as well as that of their families. This includes recognition of the economic consequences of rape. For example, many raped women are forced to leave their villages because of stigmatization and cannot find a means of supporting themselves once relocated in a place that secures anonymity.

We stand with the citizens of the DRC to demand that international bodies ensure that the DRC government carries out these demands effectively and immediately, with careful oversight of the exchange of mineral resources. International Financial Institutions (IFIs) seeking control of the abundant mineral resources in the DRC risk financing the very armed groups responsible for GBV. We demand oversight of the exchange of minerals and strict accountability standards for all stakeholders and IFIs.

Please email office@bwhbc.org, if you will add your endorsement to this call to action, which will join other statements and be distributed to both government officials and the media. The idea for developing this statement originated at the Our Bodies Ourselves 40th anniversary symposium on October 1, 2011 at Boston University.

LIST OF SIGNATORIES (as of March 14)

The Africa and Middle East Coordination of Women Living under Muslim Laws

American College of Nurse-Midwives, Holly Kennedy, President, Washington, DC

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Hal C. Lawrence III, Executive Vice President,
 Washington, DC 
Congo Action Now, Pat Aron, Chair, Boston, MA

Dutch Foundation for Ladakhi Nuns, Marlies Bosch, Tibetan Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds, The Netherlands

“For Family and Health” Pan-Armenian Association, Dr. Meri Khachikyan, Executive Director

Global Lawyers and Physicians, George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin, Cofounders, Boston, MA

International Confederation of Midwives, Frances Day-Stirk, President, The Netherlands
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics/FIGO, Dr. Hamid Rushwan, Chief Executive,  London, England
Investors Against Genocide, Eric Cohen, Chairperson, Boston, MA

Ipas, Chapel Hill, NC

Irina Todorova, OBOS in Bulgaria

Le Groupe de Recherche sur les Femmes et les Lois au Senegal (GREFELS) and Codou Bop, Dakar, Senegal

Manavi, Inc., Shamita Das Dasgupta, Ph.D., DVS, New Jersey and India

Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur, William Rosenfeld, Director, Boston, MA

Mavi Kalem Association, Gamze Karadağ, Istanbul, Turkey

National Alliance of Women Human Right Defenders (NAWHRD), Renu Rajbhandari, Kathmandu, Nepal

OBOS Tanzania, Asia Kapande, Mwanza, Tanzania

Our Bodies Ourselves, Judy Norsigian, Executive Director, Cambridge, MA

SPARK, Dana Edell, Executive Director, New York, NY

Women’s Health Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Women Health Promotion Center, Belgrade, Serbia.

Women and Their Bodies, Israel, Raghda Elnabilsy and Dana Weinberg, Jerusalem, Israel



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