Cablegate: Drc: Taking Action Against Gender-

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and AFR/SD

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1. (SBU) Summary: During the UN 16 Days of Activism Campaign
Against Gender-Based Violence, embassy personnel participated in
several events. USAID Social Protection Officer spoke at the
Protestant University of Congo and CALI (Congolese-American Language
Institute) English clubs about Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
(SGBV) on November 29 and December 3 and appeared on a local
Congolese television program dedicated to violence against women
December 11. Poloff attended the screening of the American-directed
documentary "The Greatest Silence" at Parliament December 11. The
USG supports a variety of programs addressing acute SGBV in eastern
DRC and other parts of the country. The Congolese Law Against
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, passed in 2006, criminalizes rape
and other forms of SGBV however the GDRC does not effectively
enforce the law. Widespread impunity contributes to the prevalence
of SGBV. Reports of cases perpetrated by GDRC security forces,
rebel groups and civilians are on the rise. Despite instances of
increased GDRC actions to prosecute and convict perpetrators within
the constraints of the existing institutions, there will not be a
reduction in the rate of SGBV without a concerted national effort to
build up the Congolese judicial system. End Summary

Embassy Activities during the 16 Days of Activism
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (U) USAID Social Protection Officer spoke to the Protestant
University of Congo's English Club about sexual violence Saturday,
November 29. The Officer gave a presentation on SGBV which
generated a lively discussion amongst the group of English Club
participants numbering over 50. Specific issues debated included
the rule of law, insecurity and protection, domestic violence, the
needs of SGBV survivors, and the consequences of SGBV on
individuals, families, and communities. The Officer provided an
overview of USG assistance combating SGBV in the DRC and the impact
of USG programs.

3. (U) The Officer also spoke to 20 students of the English Club at
the Congolese American Language Institute (CALI) December 3. After
a brief presentation about SGBV and USG prevention programs and
assistance to survivors, she responded to questions about domestic
violence, rape, women's rights, the rule of law, and USG foreign
assistance for activities to protect women and children.

4. (U) The Officer was a guest speaker December 11 on the Congolese
television program Let's Speak English and responded to questions
about SGBV, women's rights, and USG programming in the DRC. Officer
spoke about the legal rights of women, protecting minors from sexual
violence and abuse, and USG-supported activities in Eastern DRC to
respond to extreme SGBV. The 30-minute program was dedicated
entirely to violence against women.

5. (U) Poloff attended the December 11 screening of "The Greatest
Silence," a film by American director Lisa Jackson, at Parliament.
The film is a documentary on rape in the DRC. She presented copies
to National Assembly President Vital Kamerhe and Senate President
Leon Kengo wa Dondo as well as parliamentarians from both houses of
Parliament. Subsequent to the screening, Poloff and Social
Protection Officer met with Jackson December 15 to discuss SGBV.
Jackson presented Poloff with a complimentary DVD copy of the film
for the purpose of an Embassy screening in 2009.

SGBV Prevalence and Existing Legislation

6. (U) Government security forces, armed groups, and civilians
continue to perpetrate widespread rape against women and girls in
the DRC. Prosecutions for rape and other types of sexual violence
remain rare. Both survivors and NGO's cite impunity as the main
reason for sexual violence. Most survivors do not have sufficient
confidence in the justice system to pursue formal legal action or
fear subjecting themselves to further humiliation and possible
reprisal. Access to care and treatment services for SGBV survivors
can also be difficult in hard-to-reach locations and conflict-prone

7. (U) SGBV in the DRC is frequently perpetrated against children,
with high incidences of rape of young girls reported in Ituri and
Maniema provinces. The rape of a child or an adult is generally
seen to be a problem of the survivor (who may well be blamed for it,
particularly if above the age of 12 or so) and her family. Rape is
not seen as a community issue that requires action to improve the

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safety of women and girls.

8. (U) The rise in media coverage of the brutal nature of sexual
violence in eastern Congo has led many to conclude that incidents of
rape are increasing despite a decline in conflict in some areas,
such as Ituri District and Maniema. Cases of extreme sexual
violence and other atrocities have been increasingly documented in
Eastern Congo, particularly in North Kivu, where ongoing conflict,
high levels of physical insecurity, and population displacement
continue at an elevated level since August 2008. Such cases include
gang rapes, mutilation of genitalia, and rape-shooting or
rape-stabbing combinations, and other forms of torture, often with
family members forced to watch. Because of the brutality of these
SGBV acts, rape in eastern Congo is largely perceived as a weapon of
war used to subdue, humiliate and punish local populations. The
perpetrators of SGBV in these conflict-affected areas include all
armies, militias and gangs implicated in the conflict and operating
in eastern Congo, but also include local civilians.

9. (U) While most of the recorded attacks have been by the various
militias and the FARDC, rape by civilians is reported to be on the
rise. Sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by members of
armed groups and civilians is exacerbated by the prevalence of
impunity. In a recent report, the UN Human Rights Integrated Office
in the DRC (UNHRO) states that despite strengthened laws on sexual
violence "law enforcement personnel and magistrates continue to
treat rape and sexual violence in general with a marked lack of
seriousness. Consequently, men accused of rape are often granted
bail or given relatively light sentences and out-of-court
settlements of sexual violence cases are widespread." Few cases are
reported to the police, and fewer still result in prosecution.

10. (U) Congolese law criminalizes rape, but the government does
not effectively enforce this law. Rape is common throughout the
country and especially pervasive in areas of conflict in the east;
however, there are no comprehensive statistics available regarding
its frequency. Legislation enacted in 2006 broadened the definition
of rape to include male survivors, sexual slavery, sexual
harassment, forced pregnancy, and other sexual crimes not previously
covered by law. It also increased penalties for sexual violence,
prohibited compromise fines, allowed survivors of sexual violence to
waive appearance in court, and permitted closed hearings to protect
confidentiality. The law neither mentions sexual violence in
marriage nor prohibits spousal rape. The minimum penalty prescribed
for rape is a prison sentence of five years.

USG SGBV Prevention and Response Programs

11. (U) The United States Government is a major bilateral donor to
SGBV programs in the DRC. USG-funded programs, managed by USAID and
the Department of State, improve access to care and treatment
services for survivors, fight impunity for perpetrators through
support for legal reform and judicial system strengthening, and
promote community awareness of and response to SGBV.

12. (U) Since 2002, USAID has been supporting SGBV programs through
care and treatment for survivors and prevention activities. USAID
support has assisted more than 100,000 survivors and their families
in four provinces. USAID Social Protection programs provide care and
treatment services for SGBV survivors, including access to medical
care, counseling and family mediation, and social and economic
reintegration support. Community awareness activities educate and
mobilize local communities, including traditional leaders and
women's groups, to promote women's rights, acceptance of rape
survivors, and protection of the whole community. USAID Democracy
and Governance programs diminish impunity through legal reforms,
advocacy, and legal services to survivors, including promotion of
the 2006 Law Against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, women's
rights, and access to mobile courts. USAID Office of Foreign
Disaster Assistance (OFDA) supports emergency health projects in
North Kivu, including medical services for Internally Displaced
Persons (IDP's) and SGBV survivors.

13. (U) On December 16, USAID signed a $5 million, three-year
cooperative agreement with the international NGO Cooperazione
Internazionale (COOPI). The agreement responds to the needs of SGBV
survivors in the eastern provinces of Orientale (Ituri District) and
Maniema, areas which continue to experience a high level of SGBV
despite relative stability compared to other provinces. The new

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award will build upon the past success of COOPI SGBV programming.
The project addresses physical, psychological, and economic needs of
SGBV survivors, with a particular focus on minors and women pregnant
as a result of rape. In addition, the project strengthens community
response to SGBV to prevent future acts of violence.

14. (U) Through the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
(DRL), the Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), and
U.S. Embassy Kinshasa, the Department of State has taken an active
role in addressing SGBV in the DRC. DRL-supported projects promote
human rights, provide legal services to SGBV survivors, and build
the capacity of local NGO's, justice sector and law enforcement
personnel, and the media. PRM activities provide counseling support
and medical care to refugees, many of whom are survivors of SGBV, in
Katanga and South Kivu Provinces. The Department (AF/RSA) funded a
program with the Defense International Institute for Legal Studies
(DIILS) in collaboration with United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in
Congo (MONUC) to build sex crimes investigation capacity within the
DRC's military justice system. Post's Democracy and Human Rights
Fund provides small grants on an annual basis to local organizations
funding economic and legal support to SGBV survivors, and the Public
Diplomacy section has sponsored a series of SGBV workshops and music

15. (SBU) Comment: The problem of SGBV in the DRC is well
documented. With USG and other donor assistance, many international
and local NGOs have worthy programs that provide much needed
assistance to survivors and their families. However, with the
weakness of the Congolese justice system and the prevailing aura of
impunity, the problem of SGBV continues. An October 17 New York
Times article cited positive GDRC responses to the epidemic of SGBV,
namely increased prosecutions and convictions by police and military
tribunals. The article also noted the prominent role of irregular
armed groups, in addition to the armed forces, in the commission of
SGBV. The screening of the documentary left a strong impression on
many parliamentarians. They did not realize the impact that SGBV
has on their country until they saw the horrors of SGBV on the big
screen. It remains to be seen, however, whether the film will have
a lasting impact on the parliamentarians, and whether other efforts
to address this issue will provide an impetus to further security
sector and justice sector reforms. End Comment.


© Scoop Media

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