Sonke Gender Justice notes with grave concern the assassination attempt on the life of Dr Denis Mukwege, a world-renowned obstetric surgeon who is founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where he and his staff have helped treat over 30,000 survivors of sexual violence. His many honours for his work with survivors of sexual violence include the UN Human Rights Prize, the Olof Palme Prize, and the Clinton Global Citizen Award.
Dr Mukwege has long been a tireless advocate for ending rape and meeting the needs of rape survivors and spoke forcefully at a recent UN meeting where he called for an end to impunity and for swift action to be taken to hold perpetrators to account. He also called on the government of DRC, the UN and other member states to act urgently to stop the violence. We fear for the safety of Dr. Mukwege and worry that this attempt on his life was directly linked to his advocacy work. It closely follows a speech he gave at the United Nations last month in which he denounced the country’s 16 years of violent conflict and called for “urgent action to arrest those responsible for these crimes against humanity and to bring them to justice.”
We call on the DRC government to immediately ensure his safety. We also call on each of our own governments and the AU to monitor the situation and to ensure Dr Mukwege’s safety.
Dr Mukwege is one of a growing number of men in Africa who recognise that men have a role to play in ending violence against women and who are acting on their conviction that men’s violence against women has to stop. Dr Mukwege is one of a growing number of men in Africa who recognise that men have a role to play in ending violence against women and who are acting on their conviction that men’s violence against women has to stop.
A forthcoming report by Sonke and Promundo on men’s self reported use of violence in Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo reveals how important it is that men speak out against rape: fully 37% of men surveyed reported having raped a woman, nearly a third of men believed that women sometimes want to be raped and that when a woman is raped she may enjoy it.
Disturbingly, given the very high levels of rape in war, nearly half of all men surveyed said that men should reject his wife if she has been raped.
We at Sonke celebrate Dr Mukwege as a powerful and important example of the role men should play in society as champions of gender equality and women’s rights and we urge swift action to secure his safety and to hold the perpetrators of the attempt on his life to account.
We further call to both the government of the DRC and the UN Mission in the DRC to ensure that Dr Mukwege is able to continue with the important work his is currently doing at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. Any disruption to this vital service will have a huge impact on the many women and children who are victims of conflict in that region.
Bafana Khumalo, Sonke Co-Founder: +27 82 578 4479