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Discussing Sexual Violence in DRC

7 April 2014

Wednesday 26th March, WILPF in partnership with Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) and World Young Women’s Christian Association (World YWCA), organised a side event to the Human Rights Council (HRC) on preventing sexual violence in the DRC. This crime has also been discussed at a High-Level Dialogue this session, proving that it has become an issue that demands international attention.


At the panel, Julienne Lusenge, Vice-President of WILPF DRC, spoke about sexual violence as one of the consequences of the conflict that persists in the country. The uncontrollable arms flow, both licit and illicit, has resulted in a weapon-heavy society where the military, armed groups and civilians commit human rights violations, notably sexual violence, in impunity. At the moment, there are around 60 national and international armed groups within the country.

Panel composed by Julienne Lusenge, Minister of Justice of DRC, Minister of Gender and Child of DRC, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Delphine Brun and Mariangela Simao
Panel on Preventing Sexual Violence in DRC on 26 March

Sexual violence does not only affect victims, but it hangs over the head of all Congolese women, preventing them from going about their daily routines. For example, women are less likely to leave their homes and undertake long journeys for fear of being raped and attacked.

This has an influence in so many of their human rights. The limitations to their movement hinders their right to work or their right to political participation. For example, rural women are in a difficult position to access justice because they are physically distant from places where they can report violations. In this way, they can risk being raped on their way to see the judge and on their way back, which will mean they will have no option but not to report, contributing even further to the existing impunity.

Julienne Lusenge demanded during her intervention at the High-Level Panel of the HRC that the whole environment needs to be securitised  in order for women to lead a life free from fear. For Lusenge security will not be reached through having more military presence, but rather through bringing the services closer to women, to their villages.

Gender Inequality

But conflict does not happen in a vacuum; the gender inequalities and patriarchal traditions that exist in all our societies are exacerbated when conflict comes about. This is why sexual violence always comes hand in hand with conflict and is extremely exacerbated by it.

Preventing Sexual Violence in DRC flyer with picture of DRC woman, title of event and room and time
Preventing Sexual Violence in DRC flyer

It is thus important to bear two points in mind. One: sexual violence needs to be analysed also through a socio-economic lens that goes beyond the conflict. The social concepts of honour, patriarchal systems and stereotypes contribute to the prevalescence of sexual violence. But also number two: the impunity that has resulted from the armed conflict, the flow of weapons, the poverty and the destruction of the social structures have brought the phenomenon of sexual violence that unfortunately exists in all societies to alarming levels.

Men in DRC are not intrinsically worse than in any other country, “we don’t teach our children to rape” as Julienne Lusenge reminded, all root causes need to be addressed, remembering that gender inequality and patriarchy don’t only exist in DRC, they exist worldwide, and all countries can find themselves in this situation if we don’t start working for gender equality now!

Ways Forward

Two Ministers of DRC participated at the panel and discussed the idea of creating a hybrid specialised tribunal for cases of sexual violence, formed by international experts and national authorities to end impunity. We hope this idea will be implemented soon and that women’s groups will be engaged in the process.

But in order to prevent this crime, the circulation of arms needs to be controlled.

Also, sexual violence needs to be acknowledged as the harshest expression of gender inequality. Investing in gender equality, arms control and ending impunity will in the long run create a safer environment for the women of DRC.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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