As we approach International Women's Day and reflect on the goals of our Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, we at Physicians for Human Rights sometimes feel like we are swimming against an inexorable tide of denial and temporizing attitudes.
This past week, PHR wrapped up a three-day roundtable discussion in Nairobi, Kenya, where we brought together 45 of our colleagues from both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya to discuss successes, challenges, and new opportunities created by our innovative Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones.
Today, the 65th annual celebration of Human Rights Day, we must reflect on the need to treat sexual violence as a pressing human rights concern.
I remember my feelings of shock and helplessness after learning about traumatic fistula, which – in addition to its debilitating physical symptoms – leads victims to be shunned and isolated from their communities. Traumatic fistulas are common in conflict and post-conflict settings, and are often the result of violent rape coupled with deliberate damage.
This week in Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament bestows its most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, to Dr. Denis Mukwege, who is world-renowned for the struggle to prevent rape in the war-ravaged and underdeveloped Democratic Republic of the Congo.