In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, thousands of women and girls are being raped as a weapon of war to punish the women or the community to which they belong. Most cases are ‘gang rapes’ and could involve mutilating their vaginas with guns or sticks, sometimes in front of their family and neighbors. Rape survivors face permanent damages to their reproductive system, higher risks of contracting HIV/AIDS, and lifelong mental health struggles.
In Congo – where female virginity is prized and the husband of a rape survivor is considered shamed – these women are shunned by their families and communities.
Legal assistance is rare and impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence remains a major issue.