"SYSTEMATIC" torture of women by security forces in the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been described in a new
report by the charity Freedom from Torture
The report, Rape as Torture in the DRC: Sexual violence
beyond the conflict zone, draws on the stories of 34 Congolese
women who have been cared for by Freedom from Torture (FFT), a
group that provides clinical services to survivors of torture in
the UK, besides lobbying on their behalf.
While sexual violence in the DRC is often seen as a product of
the violence and instability in the eastern parts of the country,
the 80-page report sets out in detail how perceived enemies of the
regime are frequently arrested or abducted, detained, and then
almost always raped.
Most of the 34 women were detained because of political activity
or being supporters of civil-society groups. Many had been arrested
and incarcerated several times.
"They described being beaten or assaulted, including being hit
with rifle butts, rubber truncheons and belts; being restrained
face down in the back of a truck, kicked or stamped on by
soldiers," the report states.
In all but one case, the women were raped, and in more than half
the cases they were gang-raped, sometimes by as many as ten men.
The survivors also reported assaults to their breasts and genitals,
sexual threats, beating, burning, cutting, and stabbing.
Their stories are corroborated by lesions and scars observed by
FFT workers, the report says. After their ordeals, all the women
experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as
"chronic pain and genito-urinary symptom patterns that, while not
exclusive to rape, are frequently associated with it".
Six of the women reported acquiring sexually transmitted
infections; two have been diagnosed with HIV, attributed to their
rape while in detention; and a further two became pregnant after
being raped. A handful of the 34 had attempted suicide.
The women's stories are only a small fraction of the wider
picture, FFT says. It cared for more than 110 survivors of torture
in the DRC in 2013 alone.
The report recommends that the government of DRC allow UN
rapporteurs on torture and arbitrary detention into the country to
monitor the situation, and that regular inspections of detention
facilities be carried out.
It also urges the UN, the African Union, and other nations who
give aid to DRC to prioritise torture-prevention, and to widen the
scope of their work to include areas outside conflict zones,
especially the capital, Kinshasa.
Rape as Torture in the DRC also calls on the Home
Office to update its asylum policy on DRC to include specific
mentions of sexual violence as torture against women, and to
recognise the risk of torture for women returning to the DRC.