It’s no surprise that the Congo is considered the rape capital of the world. Hundreds of thousands of women have been sexually assaulted there over the years and now reports indicate that they are not alone.
Yesterday’s New York Times cover story reveals that men are now being raped too. Two of the latest victims share their horrifying story with the Times:
Kazungu Ziwa was in his hut when armed men broke in, put a machete to his throat, and yanked down his pants to rape him. He tried to fight back but the four feet, six inch man was beaten down.
Tupapo Mukuli was pinned down on his stomach and gang-raped by several men. He is currently the only man in the rape ward at Panzi hospital, where hundreds of other women are recovering from rape-related injuries.
Zima and Mukuli are not alone. According to Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, United Nations officials, and several Congolese aid organizations the number of men being raped has risen sharply over the last few months. In fact, the American Bar Association, which runs a sexual violence legal clinic in Goma, has reported that more than 10% of its cases in June were men.
These figures, however, could be way off base. For men (as it is for anyone) coming forward is difficult. Like women who are raped, men who are raped are shunned from their communities, ostracized, ridiculed, and are mockingly called “bush wives.” It’s not new for insults hurled at men to strike down their masculinity, but “bush wife” is worse than it sounds according to Salon:
“It’s not just “little wifey,” or some such. As described in the Christian Science Monitor, it refers to the widespread, entrenched practice of forcing women to become wives of African soldiers. (Given that the women are expected to stay with — and serve — the men for life, an international criminal tribunal now recognizes this as its own crime, separate from rape and sexual violence.)
So these men in Congo are seen as not just “women” or “wives”; they are “wives” who themselves are “weak” and victimized. Double-whammy, lowest-rung.”
A desire to demasculinze men could be the draw of selecting male victims. We know that rape is about power so raping a man, whose identity is very much connected to power and control, packs a whole new punch. This new power play also carries another dose of shame for the men with the added taboo of homosexuality.
While the number of men being raped in the Congo is just a fraction of women victims, this new trend is important to note. If women aren’t enough what’s to say men aren’t enough? Then who? For now, it’s safe to say that noone is safe in the Congo. That’s for sure.
Photo originally printed in the New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/world/africa/05congo.html?em