I would like this time to focus on a country: the Democratic Republic of Congo. I will, with help from the S.I.G.I. (Social Institutions and Gender Index) research data, bring a closer look to this state, which is considered as the ‘worst place in the world’ for women. First it is important to bear in mind that Congo, since its independence from Belgium in 1960, is home of terrible conflicts that date back to decades. From then on, and especially from the 1990s, the military violence is one of the worse in the world. In that situation children and women are the first victims. Rape and sexual violence are weapons used by soldiers, particularly in eastern’s province, to inflict fear on people and terrorize them.
A young Congolese woman, who was sent by her parents to Great Britain as a small child, is going back to her native country twenty years later. The BBC shot this as a documentary. Its name is ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Place for Women’. The twenty-three year old woman relates how the mass rape is accepted as a status quo in Congo, although such stories are hardly – if not never – transcribed in Occidental medias.
Though DRC has ratified international legal treaties concerning humans and women’s rights (of which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which stipulates men and women equality) and has written the principle of equality between both sexes in the preamble of the 2006 Constitution; the inequalities between both genders are alarming. The political chaos makes the implementation of these legal acts practically impossible.
Women represent 53% of the total population and 61,2% of them live below the poverty line (comparing with 51,3% for men). They are dramatically touched by economical, social and cultural inequalities.
The figures brought by the Thomas Reuters Foundation are frightening: 1152 Congolese women are raped every day, and wives cannot sign any legal document without their husband’s authorization. The atrocity of mass rape is even worse when you consider that, if they have survived to it, raped women are often rejected by their husbands and stigmatized in their communities.
Their condition is closely tied to the political situation of the country, all of which makes them even more vulnerable to discrimination and physical violence. With the sexual-violence getting unpunished, we cannot imagine the cruelty ending any sooner unless international organizations and politicians do something.
The economical issue is of course also a huge concern: if women are not independent economically, how can they achieve their supposed autonomy?
The NGO Women for Women International, created in 1993, is trying since then to help women in all the conflict areas around the globe. This association tries to compensate some of the problems the women mostly face in such regions: from a lack of power, a lack of education (mostly the lack of being aware of their rights), a lack of economical resources, and the lack of nutritional health. It also tries to change the mentalities, which are often very discriminative towards women in such countries. Its work have shown good results but of course it cannot inverse the tendency if the crimes committed still stay unpunished.