Thursday, 19 November 2009

V-Day at Royal Albert Hall - Stop Sexual Violence in DRC

Today, 19th November 2009, hundreds of men and women – activists, politicians from all parties, journalists, celebrities and religious leaders – are gathering on the steps of the Royal Albert Hall in London to demonstrate against the use of sexual violence in the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The event is organized by V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.

Exactly one hundred years ago, the Great Congo Demonstration was held at the Royal Albert Hall, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury and joined by artists and intellectuals, such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain, to campaign against the exploitation, slavery and murder of the Congolese people.

One hundred years on, violence and exploitation of a different but equivalent devastation remains. Over the last 12 years, the ongoing conflict has claimed the lives of an estimated 6 million people and sexual violence in the DRC is being used to torture and humiliate women and girls and destroy families.

V-Day Founder/Playwright Eve Ensler, who has travelled to the Congo five times in the last two years stated: “What we are seeing in the DRC is a war being enacted on the bodies of women that is conscious and intentional - it is the systematic destruction of the female population of the Congo. Today, we are hearing reports from activists on the ground that the babies born of rape are NOW being raped. What this tells us is that this vicious cycle is continuing, that we are fighting for the same human rights today that the protesters at The Great Congo Demonstration fought for 100 years ago.”

Hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped since the conflict began. In addition to the severe psychological impact, sexual violence leaves many survivors with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae, severed and broken limbs, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Survivors are regularly ostracised and abandoned by their families and communities.

V-Day UK Committee calls upon the international community to champion:

*A political – not military – solution to end the devastating, incessant conflict in the Congo.
*For prosecutions to be taken against those who are living in impunity for the sexual crimes they inflict daily upon Congolese women and girls.
*Support for a larger women’s police force in the Congo that can bring reliable security and protection to the most vulnerable members of its society.

This event is the first in a series that make up Congo Now - an international campaign that unites a coalition of more than 20 of the UK’s biggest NGOs plus UK parliamentarians. The campaign combines British and Congolese voices to demand an end to the world's worst humanitarian crisis - and action to address its underlying causes and consequences. The campaign will reach a climax in June and July 2010, when the DRC celebrates 50 years of independence.

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