Where is the knowledge of rape within Congolese Society after the Eastern Congo Crisis?

Ngwarsungu Chiwengo (College of Arts and Sciences | Creighton University)

6 de outubro de 2017, 17h00

Sala Keynes, FEUC (Coimbra)


During colonization, Congolese women were sexually abused and raped by the colonial administration and soldiers.  A woman had cement placed in her vagina for not submitting the expected amount of red rubber.  The rape of women was so intense during the colonial period that in the early 1960s, the republic of Congo was called, by people in Malawi, “Congo Bolo Matadi” (Congo Penis Matadi).  The penis, thus, was perceived as the symbol of power.  Rapes of women in Congo continued in post- independence Congo.  Women were raped in Kisangani massively during conflict and women were frequently raped in times of peace but these acts often remained unspoken and unaccountable.  The recent conflicts in eastern Congo foregrounded rape in Congo (DR).  Dubbed the capital of rape, rape became an international issue and was discussed by Congolese NGOs and often mentioned on national media, International Women’s Day, etc. 

However, the discourse on rape was imported and not initiated within the Congo.  Numerous videos produced on rape were not accessible to Congolese nationals but to the Western world. Rape was brought to the awareness of the West; it was used as a means of bringing gender and human rights abuses to the attention of the Western world.   Interestingly, even at its zenith, the rape of women was not seriously spoken for, even by some senators.  Rape in Congo (DR) is defined and discussed abroad and, generally, by Congolese males. Women through NGOs enact, speak about rape but do not articulate its nature and significance. Speaking is unveiling oneself, placing oneself within the public eye, and making the dishonor visible. When rape is spoken, by women who evolve in postcolonial and patriarchal worlds within which she is the other, the discourse is, for the most part, circumscribed. Moreover, because rape empowers rebel groups to be heeded, women become even more vulnerable.

To be successful in eradicating rape and enabling women to speak, films, aiming the Congolese female, should be made. Women should become academic subjects and military leaders should be trained to respect women and become accountable.  Women and their subjectivity need to be integrated into the general curriculum, so they can own their space, question their given African female identity by examining its construction during the colonial and postcolonial Congolese eras.  Women, moreover, need to gain ownership of their bodies and voices by questioning theological male definitions of women, reinforcing the concept of the supposed Congolese female identity, as the second sex because women cannot be subjugated on the basis of faith. 

Bio note

Ngwarsungu Chiwengo is a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo whose research specializes in African Literature. She teaches courses at Creighton in World Literature and African Literature. She is the faculty moderator of the African Students Association (AFSA) and the faculty coordinator of Creighton’s Black Studies Program. See:

Before the lecture by Ngwarsungu Chiwengo on 'Where is the knowledge of rape within Congolese Society after the Eastern Congo Crisis?'. there will be a SVAC (International Research Group ‘Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict’) panel session with Ngwarsungu Chiwengo (College of Arts and Sciences, Creighton University), Gaby Zipfel (Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Germany), Regina Mühlhäuser (Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Germany) and Sílvia Roque (CES).

This is an event co-organized by International Research Group ‘SVAC’ – Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and the PhD Programme in International Politics and Conflict Resolution (CES | FEUC).


Picture at the highlight at the homepage:«A soldier of the UN force in Beni, in the north-eastern Congo, in March 2014».  (c) UN/Sylvain Liechti/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND)