The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the second biggest country in Africa and home to over 66 million people. Its size is also matched by an abundance of vast natural resources. Unfortunately these natural resources have turned out to be more of a crushing burden than a blessing as they have triggered a rush of violence, corruption, wars and dictatorships. In 1877, King Leopold II of Belgium declared himself the owner of the DRC dubbing it the Congo Free State. The Congo Free State had brought the king immense financial fortune all the while by committing heinous crimes against humanity. A supposed estimate of 5-15 million Congolese men and women were killed during his reign. Due to international scrutiny, the king’s powers over the DRC were relinquished and ceded to the state of Belgium in 1908. Lesser abuses and malpractice at the hands of the state of Belgium were now in force. Nonetheless, new times were blowing in the wind thanks to nationalist movements. On June 30th 1960, the Congolese people achieved long awaited independence. Europhobia was rife, but it did not last very long. What followed after independence was further socio political decay and unthinkable violence especially against its home of compassion, its women.
Congolese Women and War
The DRC has been reported to be one of the worst places to be a woman. Women are never safe. They risk being raped while going to the fields, the market to buy food or to a stream to fetch water. Babies and even women in their 70s and older have also been raped. It is estimated that roughly 1 rape a minute occurs. After decades of terrible violence, the DRC is burning again. Reports say that tens of thousands are fleeingextreme violence including rape in the Eastern part of Congo. Rape is used as a weapon of war with no disregard in the DRC.
Why Should We Care?
It has been widely proven that sexual violence leaves immense physical and mental strains on its sufferers. As rape is a weapon of war, Congolese women targeted by rape have in most cases, all given birth to their aggressors’ children. In the DRC, we are talking about millions of children being born under such circumstances. When these unwanted children come into the world, many mothers cannot give their children the love and nurturing they need to become healthy and well-functioning citizens. According to psychotherapists, children who experience severe neglect in the early stages of their childhood are likely to suffer severe mental illnesses which then make it difficult for them to lead loving and sustainable lives. There are naturally cases where some children overcome their illnesses, but in most cases it is very difficult.
We should care about these women because the very foundation of their country is dying. Women embody the true essence of love, nurturing, kindness and love. When women are unable to tap into their inner essence and pour it our into society, an entire society suffers.
The Dalai Lama has said “we need more warm-heartedness. We need more compassion” His words echo such truth. In Congo, the women of this great country who bear the seeds of compassion have never known proper love neither from their colonizers, their own government or even their own people and as such have never been able to fully exert their compassion into Greater Congolese society. The aftermath of this reality is clearly evident.
CONGOLESE WOMEN DESERVE A VOICE AND DIGNIFIED LIFE FREE FROM FEAR. THE VERY SURVIVAL AND HEART OF THEIR SOCIETY DEPENDS ON IT.
By Charlotte Lazarus