Congo's Rape Crisis Isn't What You Think

Weapon of war? That's not the full picture: Laura Seay
By Sarah Whitmire,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2011 1:49 PM CDT
Updated May 28, 2011 2:41 PM CDT
Congolese react to the news that soldiers were convicted of rape and crimes against humanity in February.   (AP Photo/Pete Muller)

(Newser) – News that 48 women are raped in the Congo every hour has led to understandable condemnation of how rape has become a weapon of war, writes Laura Seay in the Atlantic. The problem is that "a growing body of literature suggests that the prevailing journalistic and activist accounts of the nature of rape in the Congo are often incomplete, and, in many cases, simply wrong." It's true, for instance that soldiers are raping women (and men), but studies suggest that civilians far from the war account for a significant percentage of the assaults.

The Congo does have a rape crisis, but it's crucial to get the facts right in order to find the right solutions. "'Sensitizing' soldiers about the criminal nature of rape won't do much to stop civilians from raping their neighbors, or husbands from committing marital rape against their wives," writes Seay. One regrettable side effect: The international community is pouring resources into war zones to help rape victims there, leaving those in quieter areas unable to get assistance. The nation clearly needs help, but the world needs "a more balanced understanding of the Congo's political, economic, and humanitarian challenges" in order to provide it.

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