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Rape fears hit Kinshasa

Sonia Bakaric

As militiamen rape and kill hundreds of women in the war-ravaged east of the DRC, Kinshasa has witnessed a growing wave of sexual attacks on women.

“They threw me on to the ground and raped me. There were two of them, two fake policemen,” said Clara (16), just days after her ordeal in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kinshasa.

As armed militiamen rape and kill hundreds of women in the war-ravaged east of the country, Kinshasa has witnessed a growing wave of sexual attacks on women.

Suffering acute stomach pains, Clara travelled to St Joseph Hospital in a slum district in eastern Kinshasa where dozens of people sat perched on benches waiting anxiously to be examined.

Inside his bare office, Doctor Arthur Ngoy presented a bleak picture: “Already this morning we have had two cases where women who were raped have become pregnant,” he said.

“In our medical unit alone we receive on average three rape victims [from Kinshasa] a day. The majority of them are less than 15 years old. I even cared for a two-year-old girl who had been raped by her brother,” he added.

Clara visited the hospital after she was raped on December 10.

“That night I was coming back from my sister’s home when I was accosted by men in civilian clothes in a jeep with blacked-out windows at about 8pm. They showed me police badges,” she said.

The men told Clara she was not allowed to be outside in the night and she climbed into their car expecting to be driven home to her parents.

But the men drove her to the Ngaba district of Kinshasa where they ordered her to pay a 70 000 CDF ($120) fine.

“I told them: ‘I am young. I do not have that kind of money.’ But they took the 1 500 CDF (about $3) that I had on me and my gold chain as money for transport,” she said.

“Then they took me to a dark place. As two men raped me, the driver watched,” she said, adding that the men “gave me a lot of pain. I still have pain”.

Abandoned by the attackers, she was found on the side of the road the next morning by a mechanic who drove her near to her parents’ home.

Clara’s story underscores the spread of rape from the eastern DRC by rebel fighters to the usually safer districts of Kinshasa.

On Tuesday, several thousand women took to the streets of the capital to denounce the impunity enjoyed by men who engage in sexual violence against women and children.

A 2008 report by the UN Development Programme said “Congolese women live in a soul-destroying environment in which they are undervalued, discriminated against and sexually assaulted.”

According to Dr Dolores Nembunzu, rape is committed in DRC either in the family, during abductions or as girls travel to and from school.

She added that violent rape can lead to fistula, a condition when the walls between the vagina, bladder and anus are torn, resulting in severe pain and debilitating incontinence.

“We receive rape victims every day. In this country women have become an outlet whose suffering is long-lasting,” she said.—AFP

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