On Tuesday, United States Senator Dick Durbin chaired the first-ever Congressional hearing on the use of rape as a weapon of war. The Subcommittee on Human Rights and Law discussed the need to hold perpetrators accountable for sexual violence against women. The focus of the hearing was sexual violence as a weapon of war in Democratic Republic of the Congo, with testimonies from Lisa F. Jackson, Karin Wachter, Dr. Kelly Dawn Askin, and Dr. Denis Mukwege.
Senator Durbin convened the hearing by stating his disappointment with the U.S. failure to take action on the issue. He said, “I’m sorry to say that if a foreign warlord who is engaged in mass rape found his way to the US today, he’d likely be beyond the reach of our laws. That is shameful. If we fail to close these loopholes, we will allow these crimes to continue with impunity.” Kiani was still stoned to death on July 5, 2007. Ebrahimi’s death was stayed due to the public outcry, and last week the Iranian judiciary amnesty commission released her from prison.
During the hearing, scenes from the documentary The Greatest Silence: Rape in Congo were shown. Lisa F. Jackson, the director of the documentary, testified on the lack of attention and stigma that is attached to rape as an act of war.
She asked, “Why has the world been so silent? Why in the last 10 years, has there been only ONE front-page story in the New York Times about the epidemic of sexual violence that is devastating the Congo? Why is it that rape in conflict is so infrequently prosecuted in the world”s courts? Where is the outrage?”
Congolese Dr. Denis Mukwege described to the Senate Subcommittee the sexual terrorism that women in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have faced for over 10 years. Dr. Mukwege said, “This type of sexual terrorism is done in a methodical manner by armed groups. The rapists are not seeking to satisfy some kind of sexual desire, but to destroy her family and destroy her community.”