July 28, 2021

“We need an international convention to eliminate the use of rape as a weapon of war”

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For more than twenty years, Doctor Denis Mukwege, gynecologist in Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been treating victims of sexual violence. His commitment, risking his life, was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.

Guest of the Generation Equality Forum, an event dedicated to women’s rights which takes place from June 30 to July 2 in Paris, he calls for an active mobilization of the international community in order to eliminate the use of rape as a weapon in conflicts.

For twenty-five years, you have been committed to “repairing” women victims of sexual violence in eastern DRC. Do you think their condition has improved?

As long as I treat even one victim, I will not consider the situation to improve. The suffering imposed on women must stop. This morning, I urgently operated on a 6 year old girl with a badly damaged rectum following rape. It must stop. In the DRC, the use of rape as a weapon of war continues. This method has spread like metastases in society. Today, we even intervene in areas that are free from conflict.

Op-ed by Louise Arbor and Denis Mukwege: “It is essential to deliver justice to break the cycle of violence and instability in the DRC”

How do you explain this spread?

By impunity. Perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity roam free, without fear of being tried. In addition, former child soldiers who have been subjected to extreme violence in armed groups and who have been asked to rape their own parents have become destroyed adults. And this despite their reintegration into society.

It is not enough to lay down arms, we must provide psychological follow-up for these people who have had the power to obtain what they wanted by force, including the bodies of women. It is in part these adults who perpetuate violence in Congolese society.

The Generation Equality Forum wants to shed light on sexual violence committed in conflicts. What is your view on the condition of women in the world?

Since the last forum in Beijing, twenty-five years ago, the executioners have perfected themselves in the destruction of women. Just see what’s going on among the Rohingya [en Birmanie] and in Tigray, Ethiopia, where women are found with burnt genitals. Moreover, I note that even in Europe, where their security is greater, women suffer from violence from men. In France, the figures for feminicides are alarming. Sexual violence is therefore a global problem.

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