DRC: Shocking Rape Statistics
By Staff Writer
WASHINGTON- − A new study shows that women in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been raped at a rate 26 times higher than previously thought. The shockingly high number is equivalent to 1,152 women raped every day, 48 raped every hour, or four women raped every five minutes.
More than 400,000 women ages 15 to 49 were raped across all provinces of the DR Congo during a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health.
The study, “Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” represents the first-ever estimates of sexual violence in DRC based on rigorous examination of government-collected and nationally representative data. Previous estimates have used police and health centre reports. The United Nations reported last year that only 15,000 women were raped during that time.
“The study creates another compelling argument that sexual violence in the DRC is not only a grievous mass violation of human rights but is a security threat to the entire DRC,” said Michael VanRooyen, Director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. “While there are certainly limitations to the use of these data, the message is important and clear: Rape in the DRC has metastasized amid a climate of impunity, and has emerged as one of the great human crises of our time.”
Sexual violence occurred in all provinces, the study shows, while the number of women raped at least once in the eastern conflict area of North Kivu—67 per 1,000—is more than double the national average of 29 per 1,000. That means a woman in certain parts of the Congo is 134 times more likely to be raped than a woman in the United States, which has an annual rape rate of 0.5 per 1,000 women.
Rates of rape in other provinces show that Congo’s sexual violence pandemic is not limited to armed-conflict zones. In fact, the outlier Equateur province showed rates higher than the conflict-affected South Kivu and Orientale provinces (65 in Equateur to 44 and 38 respectively). This is a new and highly significant finding.
“Previously, Congo’s sexual violence has been framed as women and children caught between two armed groups in eastern Congo,” said Lisa Shannon, founder of the human rights advocacy group A Thousand Sisters. “But these numbers show us that conflict in the east has produced a rape pandemic of astronomical proportions, but that that pandemic is not contained. We now know high levels of sexual violence exist even in non-conflict areas.”
“Our results confirm that previous estimates of rape and sexual violence are severe underestimates of the true prevalence of sexual violence occurring in the DRC,” said lead study author Amber Peterman. “Moreover, even these new, much higher figures still represent a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of sexual violence because of chronic underreporting due to stigma, shame, perceived impunity, and exclusion of younger and older age groups as well as men.”