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The Gap between the Reality in DRC and the Discourse of the Human Rights Council

2 October 2013

During this past session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) turned to address the situation of rampant sexual violence in DRC. At WILPF, we felt outraged about the draft text, which was completely disconnected from reality and from the experiences of women in DRC.

A woman stands before her belongings.
Mugunga IPD Camp. ‘Tantine’ Kazigira, 25 years old, left her home in Kiba (Masisi). Eastern Congo has seen increased activity among armed groups who consistently rape, kill, kidnap, torture and abuse civilians. Credits: Oxfam International/Flickr
The Resolution

The text praised the government of DRC for its many efforts to end sexual violence. It completely ignored the multiple factors that contribute to sexual violence and that must be addressed. As well, it also failed to recognize both the inappropriate response from the government for granting widespread impunity and the involvement of the Armed Forces in the perpetration of sexual violence.

WILPF immediately responded. We joined with our partners FAS and World YWCA to demand strong language and a holistic action that finally addresses the root causes of sexual violence: impunity, insecurity, small arms flow, as well as gender inequality, economic dependency of women, lack of political participation. Read our position.

However, the government of DRC has proven to be more interested in the international image of their government than in addressing the problem of women suffering from widespread sexual violence in DRC. The government argued over and over again that the only cause of sexual violence is the armed conflict imposed by foreign actors, and that the minute the conflict stops there will be no other human rights violation within their territory.

Everyday Life in DRC

The reality is unfortunately far different from the one the DRC government paints. As mentioned in our position, while the widespread sexual violence certainly has its origin in the conflict, it has spread to the whole country for many factors. The economic dependence of women, their lack of political participation, inequality within the family, harmful stereotypes about women and their sexuality, uncontrolled flows of weapons, militarisation, insecurity and many other factors play a role in the persistance of this scourge. WILPF has addressed this in many occasions, including during a panel last summer. Read our blog to find out why all these root causes must be addressed but aren’t.

Furthermore, sexual violence is not only perpetrated by armed groups as a weapon of war, it is also perpetrated by soldiers from the Armed Forces of DRC and by civilians every day.

The fact that this resolution passed with just a few mere changes of wording is insulting for those who live at risk and insecurity everyday.

Some Room to Hope for Change in the HRC

However, one good element was brought to this resolution: a panel will be organised in the next session of the HRC (March) to discuss sexual violence in DRC, the lessons learned and current challenges. It will provide an opporunity for the Council to address the root causes of sexual violence in a multidisciplinary way.

We should therefore focus our current efforts in contributing to having an informed panel that will finally open the eyes of the members of this Council. What do you think should be there? We will keep you posted!


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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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