On International Women's Day, Congolese Women Declare Their Rights
Editor's Note: Over two years ago, Eve Ensler shared with Nation readers "Ten Things You Can Do About the War in Congo." On the hundredth anniversary of International Women's Day, we celebrate City of Joy, a community for women who survived sexual violence during the long-running conflict, founded just over a month ago by Ensler, and post the "Declarations des Femmes Congolaise," below.
For the first time in Democratic Republic of Congo, a commanding officer was tried and prosecuted for rape. It was recently announced that Lt. Col. Mutuare Daniel Kibibi would serve 20 years for ordering the mass rape of the women and children of the village of Fizi during an attack. Though ground breaking this sentence and the ones to follow may seem, it does not go far enough to protect the women of DR Congo, the majority of whom suffer the unimaginable consequences of violent rape and have to see their rapist in their communities everyday. Eve Ensler, the founder of vday.org, an organization focused on sexual violence against women, has worked to set up an infrastructure that promotes justice in the war torn country. Her efforts have culminated in the opening of City of Joy, a community for women survivors of sexual violence in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, on February 4, 2011.
The following declaration was delivered by grassroots activists from Eastern Congo at V-Day’s opening of the City of Joy. As it comes directly from the hearts and mouths of women activists on the ground, it is finally time to heed their words. Read “Ten Things You Can Do About the War in Congo” and Laura Flanders’s piece on the opening of the City of Joy.
Declarations des Femmes Congolaise
1.Insecurity: We, Congolesewomen, have tired of the persistent insecurity in our communities, both urban and rural. Expectations were high at the announcement of the AMANI LEO KIMYA X, Y, but with dismay we realized that everything was wrong. Those who are supposed to protect us would rather sow desolation and terror in the same manner as foreign gangs (Interahamwe).
2. Economic violence: To the Congolese Government, we ask you to improve the legal texts relating to landownership so that the wife enjoys the right of ownership. Support our efforts to be financially independent.
3. Justice: Provide the Congolese justice system adequate means for the strict application of the law on sexual violence and other legal provisions for the advancement of women.
4. Given the weaknesses in the prosecution of rape used as weapon of war and other forms of gender-based violence in the Congolese judiciary, we request the establishment of a special international criminal court to prosecute all such crimes as "crimes against humanity committed in eastern DRC.
5. We ask the friends here, the international bodies for the defense of human rights, and especially Margot Wallström, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, to conduct advocacy with the Security Council of the United Nations for the effectiveness of this course.
6. Require that candidates for repatriation to their country Rwanda, the elements of foreign armed Interahamwe and others who come from backgrounds where there has been mass rape, sexual slavery, massacres, abductions, looting, etc, are brought before the people for identification before the DDRRR (disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement) program.
7. In order to prevent repeated rape of survivors when they return to insecure environments, we beg you to ask your respective governments to assist the DRC to take out terrorists from our villages.
The rapes that we have known have adverse effects on our health. Many of us have caught serious infections and even AIDS. Others have lost their genitals. Some communities will be reduced due to our inability to reproduce. Today, Population Surviving with AIDS (PVVS) do not have access to ARVs (Antiretroviral drugs) due to the deficiency.
8. A management of ARVs and other pharmaceutical products. Improve health policies for woman, giving the country specialized medical institutions for cancer, reproductive health, genital surgery, etc.
9. Support the initiative of the company Pharmakina in the production and certification of locally produced ARVs in Bukavu.
10. To the international community: Redouble efforts in support of health policy in the DRC.
11. Reinsertion and Reintegration: Develop and support mechanisms to support vulnerable women who have experienced rape to make them more independent in order to meet the needs of their survival and that of their offspring.
12. Take the issue of repressed Angola head on, and treat Angolans in an acceptable humane manner.