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!