UN: Women in DR Congo suffering, need compensation for rapes
Mar 3, 2011, 12:25 GMT
Geneva - A United Nations panel said Thursday that women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have been raped should receive compensation, as they continue to suffer from deep social stigmas and terrible neglect.
An estimated 200,000 women have been raped in the central African nation during the past 12 years of war, according to existing figures.
'The panel found that the needs of the victims of sexual violence it interviewed are largely unmet, particularly in remote areas. The lives they knew have been largely destroyed, and they are suffering greatly,' according to its report.
Highlighting just how little care is given to victims of brutal rape, which has often been used as a weapon of war in the DR Congo, the panel found that most women outside major cities cannot get medical assistance within 72 hours of sexual violence.
'In remote areas there is so little infrastructure that access to any form of assistance or reparation is virtually non-existent,' according to the panel, which recommended establishing 'a fund to support reparations for victims of sexual violence.'
The committee was convened last year by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and traveled in September and October to the DR Congo, where it interviewed 61 victims, ranging from a young girl aged just 3 years old to a 61-year-old woman.
Some of the women contracted HIV/AIDS as a result of the rape and many were ostracized.
'Shifting the stigma from the victims to the perpetrators would have a great impact on the ability of victims to reclaim their dignity and rebuild their lives,' the UN panel recommended.
The justice system was also found to be failing women. Victims told the panel that even when caught, their perpetrators have often escaped from prison, and damages awarded to them by the court have not been paid.
More likely, the women are unable to seek justice through the courts because they cannot identify their perpetrators, and the panel said the government needed to take responsibility.
Given the transnational nature of the conflict in the country, the UN body found that the international community must also step in to address the problem.
In eastern DR Congo, especially in North and South Kivu, where armed conflict continues to plague the civilian population, people told the panel their highest aspiration is for the restoration of peace. The region continues to see high level of rapes.