Just last month the UN reported over 500 mass rapes in eastern Congo over a two month period. Women were the primary victims of violence perpetrated by armed combatants and even some Congolese soldiers. According to UN envoy Margot Wallstrom, rape has become the weapon of choice in eastern Congo.
This latest round of sexual violence hit the major media networks, but how many have gone unnoticed? Rape has become so common – practically reaching the status of an endemic in the DRC – that often it fails to trigger a response. In the long and protracted conflict in the DRC, women constitute a high portion of the victims' statistics. It's a horrifying illustration of the fact that women are most deeply affected by war.
In today's armed conflicts, women and girls face the worst perils: death, rape, sexual abuse, kidnapping, enslavement and displacement. Gender crimes and sexual violence play a prominent role in many conflicts as a method of torture, a form of humiliation, and a way to spread terror and fear. Women are often shamed and ostracized, and communities are destroyed. Almost inevitably, conflicts target people at the margins of society, especially women, and they are likely to bear the brunt of the fallout in the post-conflict period.
Ten years ago on Sunday, the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1325 to address the role of women in peace and security. It was a landmark resolution – the first time that the UN acknowledged that wars affect women and girls disproportionately, emphasizing the critical role of women in peacemaking and peacebuilding. The resolution mandated better protection of the needs of women and girls in conflict with special attention to gender perspectives in UN programming and peace support operations. It also called for increased participation and representation of women in peace processes.