FGM expert brings tears to MEPs’ eyes

28 November 2014

GRAVIN DRAKE

Free thinker: Dr Denis Mukwege

Free thinker: Dr Denis Mukwege

MEMBERS of the European Parliament listened in tears on Wednesday as this year's winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Dr Denis Mukwege, outlined a catalogue of sexual violence and abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Dr Mukwege was presented with the award "in recognition of his on-going efforts to restore the physical and psychological integrity of thousands of women and girls who are victims of sexual abuse by rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo."

He has spent the past 15 years working with women who are the victims of a planned and continuing campaign of sexual violence. He is now seen as a leading international expert in repairing women's mutilated reproductive organs.

In many of the cases that he has dealt with, the women have been left pregnant but unable to give birth naturally; and many are left with injuries that prevents their becoming pregnant in the future.

Explaining why he carries on with his work, he said: "In each raped woman, I see my wife; in each raped mother, I see my mother; and in each raped child, I see my children."

Two years ago, he was forced to leave his home after an attack in which his security guard was killed and his children were taken hostage; but he soon returned. "The strength of these women and their willingness to fight made me return very quickly.

"How can we fall silent? Who would fall silent when presented with a baby of six months old whose vagina has been mutilated by the penetration of objects or chemicals?"

In his time working in this field, he has treated not only women who have been raped but also "their off-spring and then the children of those off-spring", he told a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. "That's completely unacceptable. One cannot simply be silent about this."

Dr Mukwege is an elder of the Community of Pentecostal Churches in Central Africa, of which his father was a pastor. He said that "the award would mean nothing unless it leads to change. . . We have to stop talking and move to action."

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