“I found myself fighting violence against women
An Unnamed violence, a deliberate violence”
A gynecologist surgeon from Bukavu in Congo, Dr Denis Mukwege, has won the Nobel Peace Prize for leading a heroic fight to save lives of sexual assault victims.
Dr Mukwege has devoted his life to healing the wounds of sexual violence victims, by not only treating their physical wounds but also nursing their mental trauma, providing them psychological strength to overcome the social stigma and legal support to get back their right.
“Dr Mukwege has devoted his life to healing the wounds of sexual violence victims”
The Panzi Foundation, established by Dr Mukwege in 1999, has treated over 50,000 women and provides four pillars of strength to a rape survivor
- The first pillar is medical support
- The second pillar is psychological support
- The third pillar is socioeconomic support
- The fourth pillar is legal support
For Dr Mukwege, this landmark collaboration is an example of “humanism, altruism and efficiency; a model for fighting impunity in conflict zones. It deserves to be congratulated and replicated in other areas of conflict. To make a better world, everyone should bring out the best of himself or herself, bring our skills and materials to strengthen the process like the many practitioners who did so in, and for, Kavumu. That is what they did with professionalism.”
As a child Dr Mukwege accompanied his father, a Pentecostal pastor, while visiting sick members of the community and this inspired him to be a doctor. He specialised in gynecology and obstetric care to help women during complicated pregnancies. But his first patient turned out to be a victim of rape and soon he realised the problem of sexual assault in the conflict zone of Congo was more severe than any other gynecological complexity.
Congo, often labelled as the ‘rape capital of the world’, has seen an alarming rise in rape cases. It’s a land where violence against women is seen as a weapon of war to displace women from their own villages. A new research by Freedom of Torture shows that persecutory rape, including gangrape and multiple rapes, is also being used routinely by state officials in the country to punish women activists.
Dr Mukwege is trying to reform the lives of these girls and helping them start a new life. He says, “If their voice can be heard the world has to take responsibility about what is happening to these women. Draw the line and never accept that women can be destroyed.’
His work has won him several accolades, including the 2008 UN Human Rights Prize, and was named African of the Year in 2009. It also led to a near fatal attack on him and his family in 2012 days after he denounced the country’s 16-year-long conflict and called for those responsible to be brought to justice at the UN speech. After the attack he and his family fled the country for his safety and returned in 2013 after Congolese patients urged him to resume his life-saving work at Panzi Hospital.
Since then he has devoted his life for development of rape survivors and has been a global voice for their reforms and feels the journey has a lot of challenges. “The thorny question about reparations remains uncertain. Medical scientific literature does not shed sufficient light on the consequences of mass rape on babies. There are not many retrospective studies of babies left alive in the context of conflict where rape is used as a weapon of war.”