United Nations and non-government organizations estimate that hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo are victims of rape and sexual violence as a result of Congo's brutal civil war.
Eve Ensler is founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women. She has traveled to the DRC three times in the past 18 months. Beginning this Wednesday, February 11, her organization is launching a five-city tour in the United States to raise funds and consciousness about the plight of Congo's rape victims.
Ensler told VOA rape in the DRC has become a country sport that must be stopped.
"What we know has happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo is that U.N. peacekeepers are involved in rape, the Congolese have been involved in rape, the FDLR has been involved in rape, Nkunda's forces have been involved in rape. It's actually become a kind of country sport," she said.
Ensler said she's happy that within the last year and the half her organization, V-Day, has been instrumental in making the plight of Congolese rape victims a front page news event
"Right now in V-Day this year there will be 4,000 events all of which will focus on the women of the DRC, there'll be 600 teachings, we have huge events happening in London, in Paris, in Brussels and in a 120 countries. So I think there is absolutely a movement being generated. The most important thing that has happened is that in the DRC itself in eastern Congo women are mobilizing to take back control of their own destiny," Ensler said.
She said a war is being waged on the bodies of women in the DRC that is conscious and international.
"Violence against women is not particular to the Democratic Republic of Congo. It happens in every single country of the world. But what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo is something very strategic and very malevolent. I have seen and heard stories where soldiers who are known to have AIDS, for example, are sent into villages to rape the women. I have seen situations where soldiers who have STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are sent into villages. I've seen situations where men are basically controlled and directed to rape women in front of their husbands which absolutely destroys the family," Ensler said.
Using United Nations and non-government organizations estimates, Ensler said between 3 and 400,000 Congolese women have been raped in the last 12 years. She said unless it is stopped immediately, rape with impunity will spread throughout Africa.
Ensler said the high rate of rape and sexual crimes against women in the DRC has nothing to do with the culture of the region.
"By no means do I think it's cultural because I was in the Bosnia war where I saw thousands of women being raped, and I've been in all kinds of countries. I don't think you can underestimate the history of genocide and colonialism and degradation that has already occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but where there's complete impunity, where the international community is indifferent and where the local government has failed to create justice, if you don't stop rape, if you don't say it's unacceptable, it's like a virus, it will spread," Ensler said.
The five-city tour begins this Wednesday in New York, and moves on to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.
Ensler hoped the tour will raise new awareness of the rape and sexual violence crisis in the DRC.