The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been described as “the rape capital of the world.” According to a new study, one woman is raped nearly every minute in Congo. The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health and co-authored by public health researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute, Stony Brook University and the World Bank. It concludes that “sexual violence is more generalized than previously thought.” The study, based on the responses of 3,746 women and girls for a 2007 health survey, estimates that more than 400,000 women were raped in the DRC between 2006 and 2007; this figure greatly exceeds previous estimates.
Not everyone is convinced that the study’s findings are reliable, however. Beatrix Attinger Colijn, head of the United Nations team responding to sexual violence in the DRC, told Reuters that she believed the sample size of the study was too small, and cautioned the international community from reading too much into the findings. “We don’t need figures like this to know sexual violence is a problem. There are many other types of violence and human rights issues that need to be tackled.”
Last fall, Need to Know spoke with Anneke van Woudenberg, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in the DRC, about a U.N. report acknowledging the failure of U.N. troops to stop mass rapes in Congo last summer. She touched on many issues that are still relevant, especially in light of the today’s report.