UN Authority Figures

UN Commission on the Status of Women:
The Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo: During the tribunal in Mangina, a woman points to a man she accuses of raping her. (Source: The Guardian)
Often dubbed the 'rape capital of the world', the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen an alarming increase in rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war since the conflict in the early 1990's, and remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. According to new research published by Freedom from Torture in 2014 persecutory rape, including gang rape and multiple rape, is also being used routinely by state officials in the DRC to punish politically active women, in the country's capital Kinshasa and other regions outside the armed conflict region. (Rape as Torture in the DRC: Sexual Violence Beyond the Conflict Zone)

Mission of the Commission on the Status of Women: "The Commission on the Status of Women...is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. It is the principal global policy-making body. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide." (Commission on the Status of Women web-site, "Overview")

Term of office: 2011-2015 (elected April 28, 2010)

The Democratic Republic of Congo Record on Women's rights:
"...Rape was common throughout the country....The SSF [state security force], RMGs [rebel and militia groups], and civilians perpetrated widespread sexual violence. Between December 2010 and November 2011, the United Nations reported a total of 625 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by parties to the conflict in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale provinces...Separately the government reported 18,729 cases of sexual violence in 2012...Most survivors, however, did not pursue formal legal action due to insufficient resources, lack of confidence in the justice system, fear of subjecting themselves to humiliation and possible reprisal, or family pressure. It was common for family members to pressure a rape survivor to remain silent, even in collaboration with health-care professionals, to safeguard the reputations of the survivor and her family. Survivors of SGBV [sexual- and gender-based violence] faced enormous social stigma. After a sexual assault, many young women and girls were labeled as unsuitable for marriage, and married women were frequently abandoned by their husbands. Some families forced rape survivors to marry the men who raped them or to forego prosecution in exchange for money or goods from the rapist. Domestic violence was common throughout the country. A 2012 study found 64 percent of girls and women age 14 and above had suffered physical violence; of that number 49 percent experienced physical violence again within 12 months of being interviewed for the study... there is no law that specifically addresses domestic violence, and police rarely intervened in domestic disputes. There were no reports of judicial authorities taking action in cases of domestic or spousal abuse...A 2010 study conducted by the World Health Organization found 64 percent of all workers surveyed experienced sexual harassment at the workplace...Women's access to contraception remained extremely low...The constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender, but the law does not provide women the same rights as men. For example, the 1981 Family Code requires a married woman to obtain her husband's consent before engaging in legal transactions, including selling or renting real estate, opening a bank account, or applying for a passport. According to UNICEF, many widows were dispossessed of their property because the law states the husband's nieces and nephews, rather than his widow and children, have precedence with regard to inheritance. Women found guilty of adultery may be sentenced to up to one year in prison, while adultery by men is punishable only if judged to have "an injurious quality." ...while the family code recognizes equality between spouses, it "effectively renders a married woman a minor under the guardianship of her husband" by stating that the wife must obey her husband...The law forbids a woman from working at night or accepting employment without her husband's consent..." (US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2013, DRC)