Rape is used to destroy the victim and the growing number of sexual assault cases is a direct result of an increased conflict, said Congolese gynecologist and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Denis Mukwege.
The son of a pastor, Mukwege, was awarded the peace award for his dedication to sexual assault victims and treatment of some 50,000 survivors. When news of the prestigious prize reached him, the doctor was in surgery, caring for one of his many patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mukwege told the BBC, “The way that rape is used as a weapon of war in Congo, it is really to destroy the victim but also to destroy the families and community. The consequences can go two generations.
“When children witness their mother being raped in front of them. These children will not be normal and we'll get children that are completely destroyed in a generation,” Mukwege said.
The doctor said that, despite a brief episode of peace three years ago, the conflict situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo has only grown. Many times women are forced to pay police officers to even register a rape, a practice for which Mukwege has openly criticized the president, Joseph Kabila.
“The Congolese people live with unheard-of violence. Unheard of..(President Joseph Kabila) is responsible for not putting an end to the violence. His role is to protect his people and their belongings. We see that 20 years after it came to power, this government does not protect women,” said the 63-year-old doctor.
“Now we have many armed groups that are growing again and the number of women who are raped is increasing again. And this is sad and it just shows that this problem is related to conflict,” he said, adding that winning the Nobel Prize helps bring awareness to the sexual crimes that affect victims around the world.
“The Nobel Prize for us is an expression that the international Community understands and the recognition of the suffering of women who are victim so sexual violence. And this is very important for us. The consensus is that if it’s recognized, women need, really, reparation. When women have legal reparation it means that society accepts them and accepts that ‘We did wrong, so we apologize,’” Mukwege said.
Another of this year’s peace prize winners was Iraqi activist Nadia Murad, a survivor of sexual war crimes perpetrated by paramilitaries in 2014.