Friday, March 28, 2008

Rape epidemic in Congo  

This will most likely ruin your day. But it involves an extremely serious and important issue that we all need to understand. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for those of you who don't know, is currently involved in a civil war that is resulting in the devastation of its people. An unfortunate result of this war is an unstoppable rape crisis. Rebels are using rape as a tactic of war - a way to humiliate their enemies and exceed power over them. Since fighting broke out in 1998, hundreds of thousands of females have been brutally raped, most suffering irrevocable emotional and physical damage. From a terribly shocking article in Guardian Weekly:

"This is her, the rape victim." I raise my eyes and look at a Congolese woman in her 40s who is breastfeeding. Marie-Honorine, my colleague from the International Rescue Committee, a specialist in working with survivors of sexual violence, points to the Bambi-eyed 14-month-old girl at the woman’s breast and says: "No, that is the victim."

Three months ago she was raped, the mother tells us. Her small uterus was destroyed. She has undergone several operations, but is not yet "repaired."

Raped at fourteen months old. This isn't a rare occurrence. Every day, the bodies of women and girls are being ravaged. Many are left pregnant, or infected with HIV. Some women are shot in the genitals, resulting in serious damage that very few hospitals are equipped to repair. Some women are raped while pregnant, some are forced to become sex slaves. Several women have watched their family members get shot right in front of them for refusing succumb to the rebels' sexual demands. Moreover, many women refuse to tell anyone that they have been raped because of the negative social stigma surrounding it.

It's an appalling situation. I'm currently sponsoring a woman in the Republic of Congo through Women for Women International. Her name is Lucie, she's 18-years-old and has four children depending on her. She can't afford to send her children to school, and her home has no electricity or running water. The hardships these women undergo are endless. If you want to help, please visit Women for Women to look into donating money or sponsoring a woman in a war-devastated country. You can also visit the International Rescue Committee website to learn more about the situation in Congo, as well as find out ways you can help. Please do what you can.

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