The hallmark image of V-Day is a victim of sexual violence rising from the horror and dehumanization of being targeted to the recovery and empowerment of being a survivor. As millions of people will witness the "risings" this week initiated by playwright and activist Eve Ensler and replicated in film, dance, and other events throughout the world, I want to pay tribute to the courageous experts behind the scenes who are critical to this movement.
This month marks the anniversary of a terrible event: the October 2012 attempt on Dr. Denis Mukwege's life at his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Often referred to as the “rape capital of the world,” the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has yet to break free of its human rights crisis. In March of this year, our team of eight graduate students from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University traveled to the DRC to research access to justice for survivors of sexual violence.
In October, 2012, Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and renowned gynecological surgeon who has treated thousands of victims of sexual assault and brutal rape, was the target of an assassination attempt in his home in Bukavu. His family was terrorized, and his trusted aide and guard, Joseph Bizimana, was murdered while defending Dr. Mukwege. After the attack, the Mukwege family left the DRC and took refuge in Belgium, and then in the US for several weeks. His absence from Panzi was keenly felt, and his return the cause of much joy. PHR’s DRC Coordinator, Caroline Dauber, describes his homecoming.
It has been less than two weeks since our return from Bukavu, DRC, and now Dr. Denis Mukwege and his family have been the targets of armed violence while defending the rights of victims of sexual violence in the region.