DRC to get rape hotline

2013-06-01 09:18

Kinshasa – A hotline for women to report violence against them will be launched next week in the Democratic Republic of Congo, often described as the rape capital of the world, the NGO behind the initiative has said.

“We are concerned with all kinds of violence: sexual, domestic, in the professional or student environment, ” said Jolie Okako yesterday of the organisation Telephone Vert.

She told AFP if the number, 4267, becomes widely known, “it will put in the head of the person committing the violence that a woman, a girl, will call and report it, and that a judicial process” will follow.

The NGO is considering making the hotline available around the clock, but for now calls can be made between 8am and 8pm, and will be received by one of five female operators.

“They received training as switchboard operators from our partner Vodacom and training to know what to say, what words to use, how to act in certain situations,” said Okako.

Rape is widespread in the DRC and is often used as a weapon of war in the restive east of the country – the biggest and most populous in central Africa – which has been gripped by conflict for about two decades.

Perpetrators include Congolese and foreign rebel groups, but also the national armed forces, which have been much criticised for their brutality against civilians and corruption.

The crimes are rarely reported and victims are discouraged by impunity and fear of retaliation.

“Despite all the institutions that exist, all the laws, one doesn’t feel an impact, a change,” said Okako, adding that currently young girls were being targeted in Kinshasa’s poor suburbs.

“We can’t stop violence today, but at least we can contribute to lowering violence against women.”

Telephone Vert is an NGO run by Spanish Ambassador Antonio Fernandez de Mazarambroz y Bernabeu. The hotline initiative is backed by the ministry for gender, family and children as well as the justice ministry.

The DRC and the United Nations in April signed an accord aimed at fighting the massive levels of sexual violence, which spiked sharply last year as a new rebellion engulfed the east of the country.

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