‘An unimaginable brutality’

Yakin Erturk, the special rapporteur on violence against women for the UN Human Rights Council, was dispatched to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a ten-day fact finding mission. Evidence of the sexual violence she encountered, which she described as “far beyond rape,” was widespread–and absolutely sickening.

“Women are gang raped, often in front of their families and communities. In numerous cases, male relatives are forced at gun point to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters,” she said.

After rape, many women were shot or stabbed in the genital area, and survivors told Erturk that while held as slaves by the gangs they had been forced to eat excrement or the flesh of their murdered relatives.

Widespread sexual abuse in the various conflicts racking the republic — which last year held elections hailed as marking a new era — “seems to have become a generalized aspect of the overall oppression of women,” Erturk said.

Not surprisingly, the local governments do little or nothing to punish the perpetrators, despite laws on the books. Read Professor Ertuk’s full statement about sexual violence in DRC.