Congolese journalist Jack Kahorha later explained: Someone must have lied to Amina to make her feel safe. When rapists are arrested, he said, they usually get out of jail within a few days.
Almost two months after the interview, Amina sat on a metal cot with her 3-day-old son, wincing in pain after giving birth by caesarean section. Lawyers have visited her, and she expects to testify at the trial of the man who impregnated her in August when he took her virginity.
“I cannot be afraid again,” she said.
In a country known as the “rape capital of the world,” Amina is not alone wanting justice. Although a study shows staggering amounts of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many locals say stepped-up efforts to prosecute and prevent rape slowly are starting to make a difference.
However, they add, as long as warring militias remain outside the law and families do not report rape at home, Congolese women, children and men will continue to be victims of sexual violence.
Gilbert Kasereka, a Congolese lawyer and victims rights advocate, said high-profile convictions and educational programs for judges have made the first few months of 2011 a turning point in the fight against sexual violence. Until recently, he said, rapists almost always went unpunished.
A study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health shows that in 2007, almost 2 million women reported being raped during their lifetimes, a rate of 48 per hour.
“There has been an evolution,” Mr. Kasereka said. “Judges are realizing that rapists are destroying communities.”
Other activists are less optimistic.
Jason Luneno, president of the civil society in the eastern province of North Kivu, said little has been done to enforce a 2006 law that sentences rapists to up to 20 years in prison.
“The government doesn’t control the whole country,” he said. “There is no government and no administration, so sexual violence has become normal.”
Even in government-controlled areas, Mr. Kasereka said, many judges assume that rape victims are liars and the vast majority of cases do not go to trial.
In regions such as remote, mineral-rich and war-torn Walikale, he added, victims must pay for air transportation to attend court proceedings and to testify. Most victims from Walikale cannot afford to make the trip. In a country where 80 percent of the people live on less than $2 a day, Mr. Kasereka said, requiring a victim to have cash to seek justice fosters an atmosphere of hopelessness.
“Victims say, ‘Let’s just die here. The government has accepted that we will die in the countryside,’ ” he said.View Entire Story
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