November 24, 2017

“Rape in DRC is a strategy of war - it is meant to destroy women and communities physically and mentally”

Dr Denis Mukwege is saving women’s lives in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo credit: Panzi Foundation

In a special episode of the Better Angels podcast, Sarah Brown talks to Dr Denis Mukwege about his work as a surgeon and advocate against sexual violence.

Dr Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynecological surgeon. But that doesn't even begin to tell the remarkable story of this modest man.

For many years, he has been saving the lives of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been victims of gang rape and other sexual violence.

Dr Mukwege - nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times - is the subject of a Better Angels podcast special interview with Theirworld President Sarah Brown.

"I cannot put into words adequately just what a courageous, good-hearted, important man Dr Mukwege is," says Sarah as she introduces the man who founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in 1999. Since then he and his staff have helped to care for more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence in DRC's violent ongoing conflict.

Listen to the full episode here

Dr Mukwege - who had to flee the country at one point after being attacked and threatened by gunmen - talks about how the gang rapes in DRC are used as a tool of terror.

“This rape is not a sexual act - it is a strategy of war. It is meant to destroy women physically and mentally," he says.

“When it is happening in front of their family, their children, their husband, it is also to destroy all of the community."

He says the courage of women victims made him realise he had to return to DRC to help with their physical and mental recovery.

Dr Denis Mukwege performs surgery at Panzi Hospital

Photo credit: Daniel Musaka / Mukwege Foundation

Dr Mukwege - who is a global advocate against sexual violence - said: “The big thing is see how the women change. 

"Some of them when they come in look as if they will never be able to stand again, be normal again.

“But I’m so impressed by the capacity of women not only to stand up for their own rights but to stand up for the rights of their children.”

He talks about the need for justice and reparation for the victims - but also for men, the community and wider society to understand the issue and to take action.

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