Sunday, 4 April 2010

The World Most Dangerous Place for Women – Sexual terrorism in the DRC

I’ve watched “The World’s Most Dangerous Place for Women” a couple of days ago and cannot shake it from my mind. It left me deeply moved and unsettled. In this powerful BBC3 documentary, we follow 23-year-old Judith Wanga, who grew up in London as she returns to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she was born. Two decades after she was sent to Britain by her parents, she's returning to Congo to meet them for the first time.

She wants to understand the childhood she missed and the country she was forced to leave. After reuniting with her parents in the capital, Kinshasa, Jude heads east to Kivu, an area of the country that's been devastated by war.

It is the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman, where rape has become a weapon of war – rape with the intent of totally destroying women and through them their families and communities. Jude meets survivors - women and children - as well as perpetrators, and finds out what is partially driving this brutality - the precious minerals that make our mobile phones and laptops work.

We follow Jude as she is trying to make sense of the often blurred line between perpetrators and victims and the awesome beauty of the landscape and the horrors it holds. In a war that has already claimed over 4 million people, women of all ages continue to be the victims of sexual terrorism. “Mass rape. It was like a virus,” writes documentary director Fiona Lloyd-Davies in a blog post on her film.

In Shabunda, a town deep in the forest, I found that nearly 70% of the women had been raped. Since then I'd gone back to DRC on and off over half a dozen times to write articles and make short films. But I'd never been able to secure a commission to make a whole film about what was happening to these women. It was as though they had been forgotten by the world. The women had totally captured my heart. I felt I couldn't let them down.

The sexual violence has now become generational. Women are being raped for the third or fourth time, and their children who they conceived through rape, are themselves being raped too.”

In most cases, women who have been raped are rejected by their husbands, families and communities because they bring shame and because of fear of HIV and other diseases. There is also the huge question of what is going to happen to all the children born as a result of rape…

In this terrible place, Jude also meet some amazing women, like 24-year-old Delphine, a final year law student who is going out to villages to record survivors' testimonies; Merveille a teenage former child soldier; Masika a survivor who has set up her own support network for other women, and Christine Schuler Descriver, a human right activist and director of V-Day Bukavu. V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. It acts as a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations.

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