The Proximity Of A Military Camp Justifies The Increase Of Rapes - Woman Is The First Victim Of This New War

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The Proximity Of A Military Camp Justifies The Increase Of Rapes In The City Of Goma In DRC: Woman Is The First Victim Of This New War

At the times of occurrences of armed conflict as well as presence of military camps within the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) eastern zone, women’s in thousands have been victimized to rapes and assaults of sexual nature committed through military forces. The attacks they have experienced have been in their individual homes or even in the farms or as the women do their daily tasks. Various women have not only suffered rape by one man but several military soldiers. In various situations, these combatants have also taken these women as hostages and kept them as sex slaves (Bell, 2016). It is not that, only the women are the target of these rapes but men and boys also have been experiencing sexual assault but majorly, the women are those facing maximum consequences. The act of rape is often followed by either victim being killed or tortured or wounded (Berry, 2018). In public also, rapes have been committed and these occurrences have also taken place in front of members of the family such as children. 

The eastern DRC, the city of Goma, termed as the Rape city of the world has seen civilian population being victims of the war based crimes and have experienced violations of human rights on day to day basis (Eriksson Baaz and Verweijen, 2014). The victims have viewed combatants fighting constantly for either land control or resource control. With regard to the state authority collapse within the east, the laws of international and national nature are no more prevalent and the factions of armed forces have started perpetrating and continuing to perpetrate violence of sexual nature with regard to impunity. Women have been the key victims in these situations with rape being utilized as a deliberate tool to strategically act the community’s fundamental values. 

This paper has been prepared to bring forward 5 such rape excerpts with regard to the city of Goma. The paper through these excerpts depicts the way in which quality of life is deteriorated for these women and the way in which they have become the key victims in a war where they have not done anything wrong. 

Military camps and the increase in rapes in the City of Goma, DRC

Even though the conflict level within eastern DRC has started to diminish after peace agreements were signed, continuity of violence has been evident. In various regions, violence is not only localized and sporadic in nature but also threatening and extensive with an aim on reigniting the eastern coast based widespread armed conflict (Freedman, 2015) t. One of the most serious occurrences took place in the year 2004 when the Goma forces in opposition to the transition government, tried taking control of the Bukavu strategic city, on Rwanda’s border(Gondola, 2016). As per statistics 100 civilians were killed unlawfully and various raped were committed as per reports through the forces of renegade. The loyalist force of the government took back the city within some days but most of the Goma force continued in an intact manner and therefore further destabilized the region. 

Hence, violence seems to continue and persist in DRC and its various regions have seen victims along with their fate. An unlawful occurrence such as rape by armed forces has further deteriorated the lives of these women. 

However, there is a direct connection between the way in which discrimination is practices in opposition to women and the violence which has been inflicted over the women with regard to war(Heaton, 2014). In the DRC, the women are regarded as second class citizens. This has a closer relationship to the violence being experienced by them and to the absence of any measures present to stop discrimination. 

Prior to the war times also, women had to suffer discrimination of cultural, political, economic, and social nature. The women’s situation has started to deteriorate further with armed conflict initiation in this region (Ingelaere and Wilén, 2017). Those who are widow or survivors of rape further face deteriorated consequence. As per an activity from Congo, in certain traditions women without husbands (dead) are regarded to be the family’s property. In this manner, they become an often sexual violence victim with crime committed by the family members only. However, in such situation women have a say. When armed conflicts are involved, they have to face the pressure of saving their family or their children and therefore they consider sacrificing. 

On the other hand, the legal system results in discriminating in opposition to the women over distinct levels. An example can be quoted here that under Article 448 of the Code De La Famille, while women who are unmarried more than 18 years of age are regarded to be equal as per the law but married female’s first need their husband’s permission before bringing any case in front of the court. 

Furthermore, in various DRC areas, predominates of custom within relationships of gender is visible even though this is considered as an opposition to the local law. Various women do not even know of their protections and rights available within the law(Kennedy, 2015). These are only some of the reasons why women in these regions are generally experiencing assaults of sexual nature. 

In the time of war, however, rape becomes a war weapon. The sexual violence victims committed within the DRC armed conflict course as per statistics are in thousands. It is difficult to establish a clear picture or have an exact figure. Inadequate security within various regions, the inaccessibility of certain regions and the inability of physical or material nature of certain victims to shift their place, makes it very much problematic to obtain clear information (Laitiainen, 2014). As per the delegates of AI, UN experienced professionals and the NGO humanitarian staffs, DRC has more number of rape victims than any other parts of the world. There are approximately 40,000 cases reported through collaborative initiative for combating violence of sexual nature in opposition to women and children with 1625 cases in Goma itself(Lubunga, 2016). 

All of these armed forces professionals involved within the conflict of DRC have at some point or the other committed not only sexual violence but also rape and this includes DRC based government armed forces. 

Testimony 1

For example in the year 2004, AI met Yvonne who was a 17 year old girl. She was abducted along with more girls by the governmental soldiers of Uganda while they only collected water from a near-by spring. They constantly pleaded to be released but they were taken to the nearby military camps. They were made wives to these soldiers forcibly. Yvonne stated that she was kept with them for 4 months prior to managing an escape. Now, she has a one year old daughter born due to the rape suffered by Yvonne in the camp. 

This is the first excerpt of a rape survivor which paints the horrific picture of what she must have experienced. 

Mostly, the sexual violence allegations are centred over the host of armed groups who are not well-controlled and not disciplined. For example, the mayi, the RCD-Goma and the MLC (Meger, 2016). 

Victims at times identify their attackers and this requires to be treated with appropriate care. Before of the fear of being reprised, various survivors (these women as victims) deny identifying the armed groups correctly even though their attackers are recognized by them especially when such armed forces control the region wherein they are living(Mehsen, 2015). Certain identifications have their basis over the language being used through the rapist which can easily be identified in a wrong manner as combatants speak different languages. 

The rapists however never face any repercussion of legal nature. Various combatants have been seen to regard rape as a war spoil. Violence of sexual nature is also a common consequence when war and military forces are concerned. Fetishism and also superstition is another motivating factor for these combatants mostly who are of the belief that sexual relationships with a child or pre-pubescent age or a women with post-menopause will help in making them have immunity from their diseases such as AIDS or HIV or they can even be cured if they have HIV. 

Testimony 2

Sange is a child combatant. She was enlisted first with the mayi-mayi when she was 10 years old but later she was captured and was incorporated within the different forces of RCD-Goma. As per her interview, she says that as the night time proceeded, the soldiers took turns to rape her. Almost each night, many soldiers came. They illustrated that more rape that they did would make them manlier in nature and it would also help in making their ranks increase. 

Rape, however apart from motivation of an individual, has been utilized as a deliberate warfare strategy, perpetrated within certain situations with the motivation from the commanding authorities themselves (Olsson, 2015). Militant groups have looked at sexual violence in order result in forces destabilization. 

Combatants further committed rape for securing control by creating fear on the people of the region they wish to dominate. The key goal remained on gaining an access or maintaining territorial control. This has been evident from the several real excerpts and rape accounts of Selina, Lara, and Valerie. 

Testimony 3

Troops which belonged to the FNI and FAPC, came together to control the Mongbwalu goldmines within the region of Ituri. Such a joint agreement of management had to break down and as it broke it gave rise to violence created between the forces for lucrative mines control. At the time of combat from military forces settlement in the region, serious human rights abuses were committed by all the forces. Burning down the houses was a norm and looting and raping women and girls was the norm (Robinson, 2014). As per a young girl of 12 years, Selina, she was raped by soldiers as she was trying to escape the refuge. She was being attacked and therefore she lost track of her friends or other sisters. Lara and Valerie, her sisters aged 13 and 14 were also both raped as she found out in in the next few days. Due to the rape and its consequences, the girls had to experience surgery in their lower abdomen due to violent rape experienced by them. 

Another problematic experience is that related to systematic gang rapes experienced by these women. Systematic gang rape is committed by most of the armed forces and military groups in Goma region(Schneider et al., 2015). Rape might even be committed by a group comprising 20 people. Such rapes are often committed in front of the family members of the victim in order to add to the sufferings. This is evident from the following excerpt by Edith who was aged 16. She had sisters as well Jeanette and Francine, 22 and 20 respectively. They were raped by 20 soldiers from the Goma-RCD force as the force tried taking control of the Bukavu city in 2004. The rape occurred within their home: 

Testimony 4

The girls narrated that they could see the soldiers sitting on their vehicles right in front of where they lived. The town electricity was cut off. When it got dark, these soldiers penetrated inside the houses. They took away everything from them. They asked the girls about their age. They took the one who was the youngest. The girls’ mother and their elder sister had left. Jeanette was raped in the store room by 10 soldiers while Francine by 8 soldiers in the shop area. They put Jeanette in the bathroom. The girls tried to fight the soldiers when they tried to make their brothers see the way their sisters are raped. They started beating the girls badly in order to prevent them from making any movements. Their clothes were torn. This was the first time that the girls had any sexual relationship. As the girls bled, the soldiers would hit the girls for making them dirty. After one group finished, another group would come in. All that the girls could do was sit and wait without moving. The entire conquest of rape occurred all night. 

It is not only the rape which these women have to experience but it is also the violence and torture which follows. This is evident from the following excerpt: 

Testimony 5

Sophie, a 19 year old girl had to face torture and violence by RCD-Goma soldiers. The soldiers broke down the door. She saw they were coming and so tried to hide but the soldiers were strong and could catch her. After several times of raping her in her house, she tried to run from the place. This was when the soldier shot her in her arm. Her family and Sophie ran to their neighbouring city where amputation of the injured arm was possible. Now, Sophie is 23 but not able to perform any tasks. She somehow survived the rape but now does not know how her life will move on as she has no hands. 

Most of these excerpts indicate the state of women when the military forces raped them. The excerpts depict that there is no difference in the eyes of these military forces whether it is a girl or a small child or a women (Silvestri, 2017). These women had to face the grave consequences of seeing their family members disown them saying that it is their fault and also seeing the rape of their family members in front of them. 

Recommendations to overcome women victimisation

It becomes important for this paper to consider that the women become initial victim of the war regardless of the underlying intention behind the conflict. The sexual and reproductive rights of the women are part of the human rights that are recognised by the international human rights and national laws (Verweijen, 2015). Therefore, it becomes imperative for the government of Democratic Republic of the Congo to protect the population of 1 million citizens as reported by 2012 to prevent mass rape or instances of harassment and sexual abuse by military force on the civilians (Weinstein, 2016). This becomes more important to consider since the sexual abuse and harassment including rape causes not only psychological and physical distress but also causes number of health related problems, increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV along with other ailments (Gondola, 2016). 

The focus of the transitional government of DRC should be to address the healthcare needs of the rape survivors and positioning rehabilitation a key priority of the national healthcare system. This implies that the government is required to facilitate emergency medical programme in order to provide medical care to the survivors of rape and train the healthcare teams to treat the rape survivors without discrimination and with respect(Bell, 2016). However, along with the development of emergency healthcare program to meet the healthcare needs of rape survivors, the government is required to develop a comprehensive international response in collaboration with the international and Congolese organization to provide social, legal, medical, and economic programs to ensure care and rehabilitation of the women victims.

What are the Recommendations of this study

Governmental intervention is required to condemn as well as prevent all forms of sexual violence against women

This recommendation entails denouncement of sexual violence as and when it takes place with the clear instructions to the national armed forces to refrain from the sexual violence and carefully screening the personnel in armed forced to remove the members that are subject to allegations of sexual abuses (Berry, 2018). 

1. Suspending the members of armed forces and prosecuting them for war crime upon implicating in violence against the women regardless of the investigation status.

This recommendation focuses on ensuring that the sexual violence is prohibited by the national government and the members of policy and army force that are involved in perpetrating sexual violence are suspended from the position and duty with immediate effect along with subjecting them to the trials of war crimes under International Human Rights at International Criminal Court (Eriksson Baaz and Verweijen, 2014).

2. Developing a zero tolerance policy for the rape crimes and subjecting the members of national military, police, and militants to expedited and immediate execution to prevent the offenders from escaping the nation or situation using political pressures. 

3. Ending the discrimination against rape survivors and women in general

The government can engage in public awareness to include the rape survivors in the broader community and encouraging the community to integrate the rape survivors within the community (Freedman, 2015). This further entails abolishment of laws which discriminate against the women gender.

4. Discontinuation of any form of support to armed groups responsible for the violence against women and cooperating with the United Nations to seize all assets, digital information, and resources of the armed groups along with prosecuting all members of the groups within ICC.

5. Moving the military camps in the remote locations to prevent unreported instances of violence against women and prevent the infiltration of armed forced within the civilian community.

what is Conclusion of this Study?

This paper has indicated that the proximity of the military camp not only justifies the increase of rape crimes within the city of Goma in DRC but also the lack of governmental intervention to assist the rape survivors and condemning the violence against women has resulted in the armed forces to inflict sexual violence against women to deteriorate the social condition and economy of the region. 

It has been identified that women becomes the victim of the war due to the lack of laws as well as lack of political focus on bringing the gender equality within the region and preventing the armed forced to inflict violence again women. This has been considered as wide range of rape survivors provided with their testimonies of rape wherein not only they were subject to rape by armed forces as a result of conflict but also experienced social exclusion and lack of medical care by the community and healthcare professionals along with medical institutions. This poses a critical challenge for the women in general as their human rights are compromised by not only the militants but also national armed forces. Hence, wide range of recommendations have been provided that focuses on adoption of international gender equality standards and encourages the government of DRC to eliminate the violence against women by the armed forces in particular and required international response to provide with both healthcare and economic aids in order to rehabilitate the rape survivors in the community. Furthermore, it can be concluded that by nation-wide condemnation of rape and violence against women can enable the government to prosecute offenders as war criminals under International Criminal Court.

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