Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) includes the use of rape and sexual terror as a tactic of war in the conflict-affected eastern provinces, as well as pervasive violence against women and girls throughout the rest of the country. Men and boys are also victims of these abuses, but are often overlooked as a vulnerable population.
To further advance the efforts that are being undertaken by the Government of the DRC, the United States has developed a comprehensive strategy to address SGBV in the DRC, aligned with the strategies of the DRC Government and the United Nations. The U.S. government’s four key objectives, in support of Congolese efforts, are to:
- Reduce impunity for perpetrators of SGBV;
- Increase prevention of and protection against SGBV for vulnerable populations;
- Improve the capacity of the security sector to address SGBV; and
- Increase access to quality services for survivors of SGBV.
Beyond the specific objectives of the strategy, the U.S. recognizes that effective prevention of SGBV requires efforts to address women’s and girls’ low status in society. Increased participation of women in all aspects of society would enhance the value of women and girls. Furthermore, the DRC cannot move ahead without the full inclusion of women – including politically, economically (through agriculture and beyond), and socially, through a robust civil society movement. As Secretary Clinton noted in her 2010 statement before the Security Council to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, “the only way to achieve our goals – to reduce the number of conflicts around the world, to eliminate rape as a weapon of war, to combat the culture of impunity for sexual violence, to build sustainable peace – is to draw on the full contributions of both women and men in every aspect of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building.”
We remain committed to working with the DRC Government, the United Nations, and other international and local partners to improve the DRC Government’s capacity to prevent SGBV, address the threat from illegal armed entities (including their link to conflict minerals), and break the cycle of impunity for crimes affecting innocent men, women, and children. In addition to mitigating violence against women and girls, we are committed to supporting the full inclusion of women in the country’s political and economic development.
Women are a powerful voice for peace and an instrument of development when given the opportunity. Investing in women is not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.