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International News

Symbol of Unhealed Congo: Male Rape Victims

August 11, 2009

Rape has long been a weapon of war in the extremely complicated conflict that has raged for years in Congo. Now, however, the fighting has entered a new phase as joint Congo-Rwanda forces battle rebels in renewed fighting that has driven a half-million villagers from their homes. And increasingly, aid groups say, rape is a tactic fighters are using against men.

The number of men raped has risen sharply in recent months, according to the UN, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and other groups. The best explanation they can offer for the surge in male-directed sexual violence is that the crime is seen as an effective way to humiliate and demoralize Congolese communities. The cases have occurred across hundreds of miles and may involve hundreds of victims. In June, more than 10 percent of persons seeking help at the American Bar Association's sexual violence legal clinic in Goma were men.

An accurate count of victims is impossible to determine because many men are too ashamed to report the crime. The stigma of being raped is magnified by the culture's abhorrence of homosexuality.

"I'm laughed at," one victim said. "The people in my village say: 'You're no longer a man. Those men in the bush made you their wife.'"

So deep is the shame brought on by these attacks, which increasingly involve sexual mutilation, that victims sometimes die of their injuries rather than present at medical facilities.

Eastern Congo is considered the rape capital of the world by the UN, with hundreds of thousands of women having been sexually attacked during the long years of war.

Back to other news for August 2009

Adapted from:
New York Times
08.05.2009; Jeffrey Gettleman

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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