The below statement is a collaborative initiative in which the International Women’s Health Coalition’s South African partner Sonke Gender Justice Network is taking part.
Press Statement Issued by Members of the UN Secretary General’s Network of Men Leaders, the MenEngage Alliance and the Athena Network.
Last year the African Union declared this decade, 2010-2020 as the African Women’s Decade.
Between July 30th and August 4th nearly 500 women were raped in and around the village of Luvungi in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a campaign of ongoing terror waged by armed groups who use rape as a weapon of war. To date, armed groups and soldiers from the Congolese armed forces have raped over 200,000 women.
We, the undersigned members of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s Network of Men Leaders and members of the MenEngage Alliance and the Athena Network, call on the African Union, its regional bodies and member states to take urgent action to demonstrate their commitment to indeed ensuring that this decade improves women’s lives and brings an end to the endemic violence faced by women across the continent, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The announcement by African heads of state that 2010 to 2020 would be the decade of the African Women was met with hope and excitement. The announcement followed a decade in which African heads of state signed numerous commitments to ensure protection for women from sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and to increase women’s leadership and involvement in peace-building in conflict and post-conflict settings. These binding commitments include the 2005 Maputo Protocol, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in October 2000, and UNSCR 1820, which addresses the issue of sexual violence in conflict, in June 2008.
The United Nations has acknowledged that its MONUSCO forces failed in their peacekeeping mandate and recognised that their forces did not do enough to respond to warnings issued by villagers about impending attacks. The UN has committed itself to doing things differently. They must now act on those commitments.
To date, however, neither the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo nor the relevant regional bodies have issued statements condemning the violence. The African Union has been silent and so have the Southern African Development Community, the East African Community and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which just last November held a meeting to address sexual violence in the Great Lakes region.
As members of both the UN Secretary General’s Network of Men Leaders active in the United Nations UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign and as members of the global MenEngage Alliance active in over forty countries, we call on the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the African Union, SADC, the EAC, the ICGLR and the United Nations to take immediate and urgent action to hold accountable the perpetrators of this violence and to take measures to prevent such violence from occurring ever again.
Specifically, we call on the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the African Union, is regional bodies the SADC, the EAC, the ICGLR, its members states and the United Nations to do the following:
- Provide immediate health care, medicine and support to survivors of rape and to those affected by violence.
- Take swift action to arrest and prosecute those responsible for the attacks, including those involved in planning, sanctioning and colluding with the attacks. As a state actor, the DRC Military, or FARDC, must be held to the commitments made by the DRC government or face war crimes charges.
- Substantially increase the numbers of peacekeeping troops on the ground.
- Take women’s and children’s experiences and priorities into account in planning and monitoring protection measures, including confidential consultation, feedback and complaints mechanisms and adequate representation on security committees and other community protection bodies.
- Develop programmes and policies, including mass media and community education campaigns that challenge the stigma faced by survivors of rape.
- Develop programmes and policies that educate men about women’s rights and challenge notions of manhood that contribute to rape and domestic violence.
- Accelerate engagement with non-state armed groups in the DRC to demand that they uphold international law and cease using rape as a weapon of war and other human rights violations against civilians.
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