World Physicians Call for Inquiry into Congo Rapes

(24.11.10) The World Medical Association today added its support to worldwide calls for an immediate inquiry into allegations that more than 700 women, men and children were raped when Angola recently expelledthousands of people back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. These atrocities add to the widespread and systematic nature of rape and other human rights violations in the Congo by rebels. More than 8,000women were raped during fighting in 2009, the UN says.

In a statement to mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women tomorrow (November 25), the WMA's chair Dr. Edward Hill said: ‘The appalling allegations of rape in the Congo are a grim reminder that violence against women has become a systematic weapon of war. This is only the latest in a catalogue of similar atrocities invarious parts of the world. As the WMA declared in its Statement last month this is a major public health issue and one on which physicians are calling for absolute zero tolerance.

‘Today we are calling in the strongest possible terms for the perpetrators of these rapes to be prosecuted for their crimes. We urge all national medical associations to remind their members to pay far greater attention to these unacceptable violations of the most basic women's human rights.‘Physicians are in a position to document and report all cases of violence against women that come to their attention and I would urge them to do so. We must also seek to protect those who speak outagainst abuse, including physicians and other health professionals.'

Dr. Nkelani Matondo Norine, from the Order of Physicians of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said that the situation of abused women in the Congo was critical and required urgent attention from theinternational community and all organizations working for peace and human rights. Mass rape had become a weapon of destruction, much used by the enemy and many physicians were now working for women victims in the area, including Dr. Denis Mukwege of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu/South Kivu, specializing in the reconstitution of vaginas, which has already operated on more than mutilated 20,000 women. She added: ‘In my political struggle against violence towards women, I always explain the disastrous consequences of sexual assault. It can cause lesions that can have grave consequences in the long run, such as frigidity and sterility. Sexually transmissible diseases, such as HIV, and unwanted pregnancies are other common consequences. ‘Psychologically, women feel diminished and humiliated and without proper support from a psychology specialist, they fall into a deep depression. Socially, many women are abandoned by their husbands because of rape. Towards their children, they feel humiliated, in particular those violated in the presence of her children'.

Dr. Nkelani said the WMA and its members should put pressure on the UN to take appropriate action towards the Congolese authorities.