“If Your Husband Doesn’t Humiliate You, Other People Won’t”: Gendered Attitudes Towards Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Authored by: Jocelyn Kelly, Justin Kabanga, Will Cragin, et al

Categories: Human Rights, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health
Country: Democratic Republic of Congo
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2012
Citation: Kelly, Jocelyn, Justin Kabanga, Will Cragin, et al. "'If Your Husband Doesn't Humiliate You, Other People Won't': Gendered Attitudes Towards Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo." Global Public Health 7, no. 3 (2012): 285-98.

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Executive Summary

More than a decade of fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has resulted in extensive human rights abuses, of which sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is one of the most salient and disturbing features. This paper uses qualitative data, based on 10 focus groups with 86 women and men to better understand gendered community perspectives on SGBV and its consequences in South Kivu. We conclude that for many survivors, rape has consequences far beyond the physiological and psychological trauma associated with the attack. Respondents say sexual violence has become a societal phenomenon, in which the community isolation and shame experienced as a result of the attack become as important as concerns about the attack itself. Male focus group participants explain their own feelings of shame and anger associated with knowing their female relatives were raped. These findings highlight the complexity of community reintegration for survivors and identify a number of programmatic and policy implications, such as the need for counselling for survivors of sexual violence with their families as well as individually; the importance of income-generating training; and the need for improved justice mechanisms to bring perpetrators to justice.