The region of Nord-Kivu in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been faced in recent years with increased inter-communal tensions and new waves of sexual violence against women, girls and boys. According to the Humanitarian Response Plan 2017-2019 of UNOCHA for DR Congo, 26,418 new cases of sexual violence have been dealt with in the areas of the country affected by the humanitarian crisis. 31% alone have been registered in North-Kivu.
Johanniter helps victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence within their project activities in North-Kivu. Besides providing medical, psychological and legal assistance, Johanniter and their local partner organisation UFEPROV offer support during the long recovery process of victims and on their way back into the society. One important aspect is economic independence, which is supported by a basic kit to start a small business by individual choice, such as trading palm oil or rearing small animals. Under-aged survivors also receive a scholarship that will allow them to continue their education. Mr. DUNIA Bosco works for UFEPROV in the village of BIHAMBWE and explains why sexual violence is a widespread problem in North-Kivu:
According to your experience, who are the perpetrators of these acts of sexual violence?
We can mention armed groups, street children or some drunken men who often cross paths with women who come from the field.
How perceives your community in BIHAMBWE sexual violence?
In general the community condemns sexual violence, but there are also people who have no real information about it, even though the consequences are serious. Sexual violence in the community spreads diseases like HIV; often the victims feel shame towards their family, entourage and the whole community.
Which institutions and organisations offer help for the victims?
In our village the nearest structure is the health centre that offers medical care and orientation for the victims for their behaviour in the community. There are associations such as UFEPROV which works with Johanniter to help them making good use of the aid they received. We can also mention ABA which raises awareness about the orientation towards justice in order to accompany them legally to punish the guilty party.
How does the first contact between the victim of sexual violence and the mentioned organisations take place?
In order to be referred to care organisations, there are groups to raise awareness, such as the Community Health Workers who pass by to spreas there knowledge about the problem and consequences in the villages. They are in charge to inform the population about sexual violence and the means of referring them to care organisations.
What can be done in order to reduce the number of such incidents?
This is a good question: In order to reduce it, the State must make efforts to increase the number of agents who will raise awareness in villages and peripheral areas so that everyone knows that sexual violence is a very bad thing.
Can you give us an example of a case where a perpetrator was arrested and punished in accordance with the law?
Yes. In BIHAMBWE I was in a committee for such cases. One day we went out towards a district called KABLEMBO where lived a girl, victim of sexual violence by a young man. In KALIMUBA another boy raped a little girl when she had left the school. Both these boys were arrested and transferred to KIBABI and from there to the city of Goma.
"I am 14 years old and I live in the village of BIHAMBWE. I just got back from field work when a man approached me from behind. He pushed me to the ground and then he raped me. That was less than one year ago. I felt very bad afterwards and ran to the nearest health station. They treated me there medically after telling the nurse what had happened. Later, someone else came to talk to me. He appeased me and told me not to feel guilty. He gave me psychological support.
Today I feel a little bit better. I was also advised to file a complaint. Afterwards, the man was arrested. But when they found out that he was a well-known man from the village, he was released. I was ashamed to pursue the case. He still is around and I have to see him sometimes. That makes me angry, but it doesn't help, because it has already happened.
Johanniter supported me with medical treatment and UFEPROV gave me a scholarship and the means to breed small animals. Right now I'm in sixth grade. This support is important to keep the will to live and to have hope. The hope that one day the man will be punished in court for what he did and that my schooling will provide me with more pleasure.”