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Europe said to ignore mass rape of women, children in Congo

Originally published in:
New Europe, the European Weekly, Issue : 803

A combination of racism, sexism and vested interests are preventing the European Union and US government acting effectively against the Congolese militia’s tactics of mass rape of women and children was the conclusion of a conference held in Brussels by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

The plight of women and children is even worse than it was in Rwanda during the genocide according to speakers at the conference. They said the struggle and suffering of these women is invisible and must be addressed to prevent the long term results being devastating for the country.

Participants urged the EU to take notice that “this is not a battle by women for women, it is a battle for humanity by humanity.” MEP Renate Weber of Romania,) co-chair of the seminar and a member of the Development Committee in the European Parliament said: “This is an emergency! As we speak, women are systematically destroyed in DRC through dreadful sexual and psychological torture. The impunity of the perpetrators must be stopped. We have to act now because the future of a nation is at stake, the future of our own humanity is at stake!”

The seminar heard disturbing first hand examples from the director of the ground breaking Panzi Hospital in the DRC, Dr Denis Mukwege of the atrocities allegedly being perpetrated. Eve Ensler, author and playwright and founder of V-Day, a global movement that supports anti-violence organisations throughout the world also made a powerful contribution with her account of the crimes currently being carried out, participants said.

Ensler has just returned from the DRC, where she spent a month in North and South Kivu. The French presidency was represented by Jean-Bernard Bolvin, adviser to Rama Yade, French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who said the French presidency will help, but didn’t say how. MEP Sophie in’t Veld of the Netherlands), the other co-chair, said: “Until you hear the stories you have no idea how bad things are, it goes beyond anything you can imagine but we have to leave emotions aside and focus on action. The European Parliament can be instrumental in raising awareness; we cannot close our eyes to this anymore. Violence against women seems to be perceived by large sectors of society to be normal but this should no longer be considered as a women’s issue but a human rights issue.” The EU last year praised the government of Congo for conducting elections that were relatively free of trouble, but critics have said this has blinded Europe from taking action against continued atrocities.