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Study: More than 1,100 Women & Girls Raped Daily in Democratic Republic of Congo

A new study appearing in the American Journal of Public Health found that more than 1,100 women and girls are raped every day in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a rate 26 times higher than previously thought. Agence France-Presse reports that more than 400,000 women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 were raped in the central African country during a twelve-month period in 2006-2007, more than 385,000 more than the United Nations estimated.

“Our results confirm that previous estimates of rape and sexual violence are severe underestimates of the true prevalence of sexual violence occurring in the DRC,” Amber Peterman, the study’s lead author, told AFP. “Even these new, much higher figures still represent a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of sexual violence because of chronic underreporting due to stigma, shame, perceived impunity, and exclusion of younger and older age groups as well as men,” she added.

The study’s findings are even more shocking because girls younger than 15 and women older than 49 years old were not counted, nor were boys and men who were raped. Reports from the war-torn DRC indicate that not even infants or very elderly women are immune from sexual violence.

In one horrific yet not uncommon incident, nearly 200 women, girls and baby boys were gang-raped by Congolese and Rwandan rebels near a UN peacekeepers’ base last year.

“Although the burden of sexual violence among these groups is uncertain, a review of the records of 4,133 women attending Panzi Hospital in Sud Kivu showed that six percent were younger than 16 years and 10 percent were older than 65 years,” the study said.

Incredibly, “Human Rights Watch reported that sexual violence in 2009 doubled in comparison with 2008. If this assessment is accurate, then the current prevalence of sexual violence is likely to be even higher than our estimates suggest.”

The pandemic of rape in the DRC, which is used as a weapon of war by both government forces and the rebels they are fighting, is one of the most urgent humanitarian crises in the world today. But other than issue the customary statements of “deep concern,” the United States and other world powers have done little to nothing about it.

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