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French 1st lady seeks help for DRC women

31 May 2013, 07:40

Geneva - France's First Lady Valerie Trierweiler on Thursday, urged the international community to help bring to justice those responsible for hundreds of thousands of rapes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the past two decades.

"I want bring an end to the silence surrounding this tragedy, a tragedy that has been going on for more than 20 years. Nearly 500 000 women have been raped," she lamented.

Speaking at a side event to an ongoing session of the UN human rights council in Geneva, Trierweiler launched an urgent appeal to help the women of DRC, often described as "the rape capital of the world”.

In her address before numerous diplomats from western and African countries, she insisted that "a strong response from the UN Human Rights Council is necessary to establish a mechanism to protect human rights" and "fight impunity”.

Trierweiler, who met with UN human rights chief Navi Pillay before the event, spoke in her capacity as ambassador of the France Freedom Foundation, which co-hosted the panel discussion with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Raping and mutilating women has been turned into a weapon of war in conflict ravaging eastern DRC, she lamented.

She stressed that the international community could do a lot to address the problem by simply enacting the many measures and initiatives it had already agreed upon, adding though that more stringent safeguards were needed to bring an end to violence inflicted on civilians.


A representative of the UN agency focused on HIV/Aids, also spoke up at the event, pointing out that around 20% of DRC's rape victims end up with the deadly virus, and that the babies they give birth to are more often than not infected as well.

"We hope that your personal involvement will allow us to create a space for dialogue so we can fight this together," he told the gathering.

Sexual violence against women in DRC increased sharply last year as a new rebellion engulfed the region in fresh unrest, with rebels and army soldiers alike accused of using rape as a weapon against the opposite side.

More than 5 000 women were raped in the restive eastern province of North Kivu alone in 2012, according to a local hospital.

Trierweiler's organisation has sent four doctors to DRC, especially to help train local physicians.



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