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U.N. Panel Recommends Reparations Fund for Victims of Sexual Violence in Democratic Republic of Congo

March 4, 2011

A high-level U.N. panel on Thursday recommended that the international community "create a special reparations fund for victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)," following an assessment of the conditions faced by survivors of such acts, Agence France-Presse reports (3/3).

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Between Sept. 27 and Oct. 13, the panel, appointed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, interviewed "61 survivors of sexual violence, ranging from a girl raped when she was three years old to a 61-year-old grandmother, about what they perceived their actual needs to be," U.N. News Centre writes. According to the report (.pdf), "Health care and education were among the highest priorities conveyed to the panel by victims," the news service writes (3/3).

The panel said that most women in rural areas cannot obtain medical care within 72 hours of experiencing sexual violence and a lack of infrastructure in those areas make "any form of assistance or reparation ... virtually non-existent," Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (3/3). "Victims of sexual violence are left to fend for themselves, often living on the streets. Their stigmatization is further compounded by fistula, pregnancy resulting from rape, and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS," U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, a member of the panel, said, according to VOA News (Schlein, 3/3).

"The panel recommends that a fund to support reparations be established as a matter of priority, and that the management of the fund includes representatives of the government of the DRC, the U.N., donors, civil society, and survivors themselves," U.N. News Centre adds (3/3).

According to the report, "While there is no way to erase the harm that has been suffered by victims, addressing their losses is the starting point for reparations," Reuters reports. The news service notes the U.N. "has called Congo the rape capital of the world," estimating 200,000 women have been victims of sexual violence over the past 12 years of conflict (Nebehay, 3/3).

In related news, Al Jazeera features an interview with women's advocate Eve Ensler on her efforts to empower women in the DRC. Ensler helped launch the U.N.-funded "'City of Joy' that provides shelter and counselling to women of the DRC," Al Jazeera writes (Khan, 3/2).

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