End Sexual Violence in Democratic Republic of Congo

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been a “war against women” in which thousands of women and girls have been raped with the intent to destroy their families and communities. All parties to the conflict have committed this violence but an overwhelming number of these crimes have gone unpunished. Last year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women noted that “impunity for rape is massive” and that “soldiers or police who commit these acts amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes are rarely held to account.” The United States Congress must condemn this ongoing violence against women and girls, and must work to end impunity in cases of sexual and gender-based violence and provide greater assistance to survivors.

Please join Amnesty International in the fight for rape survivors’ rights in the Congo by asking your Member of Congress to co-sponsor H.Res. 1227 today.

Background:

High levels of rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence remain pervasive in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly in the east. Government soldiers and police, as well as Congolese and foreign armed group members, are the main perpetrators. Many rapes, notably those committed by armed groups, have involved genital mutilation and other extreme brutality. Perpetrators of sexual violence are brought to justice. Rape survivors are routinely stigmatized, and suffer social and economic exclusion. Few have access to adequate medical care. The ongoing rape crisis is also part of a broader pattern of violence and endemic discrimination against women in the Congo.

H.Res. 1227, introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), condemns the prevalent sexual violence in the Congo and the culture of impunity fostered by all parties to the ongoing armed conflict in the east. The resolution calls on the Congolese government to protect civilians from violence in accordance with international norms and to prosecute suspected criminals for their actions.

Every year, violence devastates the lives of millions of women and girls globally. Violence against women and girls is a tremendous human rights problem around the world. It includes rape, domestic violence, acid burning, dowry deaths, so-called “honor killings”, human trafficking, female genital cutting and more. The United Nations Development Fund for Women estimates that up to one in three women globally will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries, according to the World Health Organization. Violence destabilizes countries, impedes economic progress, and prevents women from raising healthy children.

H.Res. 1227 calls on the Secretary of State to appoint a special envoy to the DRC to facilitate peace and stability in the eastern Congo and to monitor implementation of the November 2007 agreement between the Congolese government and Rwanda on mutual security. The resolution also calls on the United Nations Security Council to ensure the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo (MONUC) is fully funded, trained in gender-sensitive issues, and deployed to areas where sexual violence in prevalent.

Action Request:

The following is a sample letter to ask the Congressional representatives from Oregon to co-sponsor H. Res 1227. Please write letter to your Congressional representative. To send an email or fax, please select the congressional representative from this page.

Dear Representative (Insert Name),

I write today as your constituent and urge you to co-sponsor H.Res. 1227, introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Representative Brad Miller (D-NC), a resolution condemning sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and calling on the international community to take immediate actions to respond to violence there.

As you are aware, sexual violence against women and girls is pervasive throughout the eastern Congo. Rape continues to be used by all parties to the conflict and almost all perpetrators go unpunished. The prevalence of rape and the stigmatization of rape survivors have led to a public health crisis in which women and girls are frequently left with serious physical injuries and psychological problems. Due to a lack of access to medical care and the fear of being rejected by their husbands and disowned by their families and communities, survivors of rape also go without necessary post-trauma assistance.

Two years ago, Congress and the president codified the United States’ commitment to peace in the Congo through the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006. The law states it the policy of the United States “to help halt the high prevalence of sexual abuse and violence perpetrated against women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and mitigate the detrimental effects from acts of this type of violence by undertaking a number of health, education, and psycho-social support programs.”

Today, as violence against women and girls remains widespread in the Congo, the United States must re-commit to ending sexual violence. By calling on the Secretary of State and the United States Agency for International Development to fulfill the policy objectives previously set forth by law, H.Res. 1227 demonstrates the United States is serious about stopping the “war against women” in the Congo. By calling on the Congolese government to develop a strategy for ending sexual violence and impunity for its perpetrators and by calling on donor countries to fund human rights training for military and law enforcement officials in the DRC, H.Res. 1227 recognizes that a sustainable solution to this crisis requires the participation of the international community. The United States recently led the United Nations Security Council to pass resolution 1807 condemning sexual violence in the Congo. Now it is time for Congress to act, as well.

United States leadership on this crucial matter is urgently needed. I urge you to seize this opportunity to help shape and lead a renewed commitment by the United States to ending violence against women and girls in the Congo by co-sponsoring H.Res. 1227.

Sincerely,

Addressees:

Earl Blumenauer
2267 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Local Phone: (503) 231-2300

Darlene Hooley
2430 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-5699 fax

David Wu
2338 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-0855

Peter Defazio
2134 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 1-800-944-9603

Greg Walden
1210 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: 202-225-5774

Thank you for your continuing efforts to protect the people of the Congo.

Terrie Rodello
AIUSA Central Africa RAN Coordinator

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