Source: Relief Web
Rape victims from Songo Mboyo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will be presented with a boat as a gesture of solidarity from the United Nations on Monday, 7 February, in Mbandaka, DRC.


The boat will be used by the women to transport goods to the market in support of their income-generating activities.

More than 100 women from Songo Mboyo, a remote village in the Equateur Province, were victims of a mass rape that took place in December 2003. Late last year, some of these women testified before a High-Level Panel, convened by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, that although 29 of them had successfully taken their cases to court and had been awarded indemnities in 2006, the monies were never paid by the government. Others testified that while they went to court seeking justice, the perpetrators were never arrested. They testified that they needed more direct assistance and reparations to help them rebuild their lives.

On behalf of the High-Level Panel, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will hand over the boat, funded by UN Women, to representatives of the Association of Songo Mboyo, the group the women established to support each other and develop income-generating activities.

An estimated 200,000 women have been raped in the DRC during the last 12 years of war in that country. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 120 cases of rape reported in DRC.

The UN High-Level Panel spent more than two weeks in DRC to hear directly from the victims of sexual violence about the remedies available to them and their needs.

The panel found that while many measures and programmes are being developed by the government and the United Nations to support victims of sexual violence in their recovery, more could be done. They found that for women in remote areas like Songo Mboyo, urgent needs were largely unmet. Knowing that the women of Songo Mboyo had not received payment of the indemnities awarded to them by the court, the panel organized the UN effort to build the boat and give it to the survivors' association as a gesture of solidarity.

The Panel was led by Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Other Panel members were Elisabeth Rehn, former Defence Minister of Finland, and Denis Mukwege, Medical Director of the Panzi Hospital that treats victims of sexual violence in DRC. The Panel's report is expected to be made public later this month.

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