Nobel Peace Prize: a shocking account of Denis Mukwege, doctor who won the prize for fighting rape in wars
Mukwege has assisted more than 30,000 women victims of sexual abuse in conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He set up a hospital with more than 300 beds, and a system to fund women to start over. He even suffered an attack, but decided to continue the fight against sexual violence.
Two people fighting the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war were awarded this Friday with the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
One of them is Nadia Murad, a woman who was held as a sex slave of militants in the Islamic state in 2014. After escaping, she became one of the leading voices in the fight for women’s rights.
The other is Dr Denis Mukwege, who has treated more than 30,000 victims of sexual abuse with serious injuries in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country’s civil war has left more than 6 million dead, and thousands of women have been subjected to rape.
Known for the maxim that “justice is everybody’s responsibility,” Mukwege set up a 350-bed UNICEF-funded hospital and other donors, as well as a mobile care unit and a system to provide microcredit for victims to rebuild their lives.
After treatment, raped women and girls receive help to return to work or study.
In a dramatic account, reproduced below, Mukwege told BBC News how sexual abuse has become a powerful and overwhelming weapon of war in conflict:
Beginning of abuses
“When the war broke out, 35 patients from my hospital in Lemera, eastern Congo, were killed in their beds.
I fled to Bukavu, 100 km from Lemera, and began to tend [patients] in tents. I built a maternity ward and an improvised operating room, but in 1998 everything was destroyed. So I had to start building a new structure to serve my patients in 1999.
It was in that year that our first patient rape victim was brought to the hospital. After the patient was raped, her attackers shot her thighs and genitals. I thought that this act of barbarism would be something isolated, an atrocity of war, but the real shock came three months later.
Forty-five women came to deal with us with the same story: fighters had entered their villages, raping and torturing whom they met along the way.
Some women had burns and reported that after they had been raped, chemical abrasives were spilled on their genitals.