Sexual Violence in the DRC & One Man's Mission-Dr. Denis Mukwege
The Inamori Ethics prize is an annual prize given out by the Inamori Center of Case Western Reserve University. This award emerged from the vision and generosity of Dr. Kazuo Inamori. Three decades ago, Dr. Inamori created the Inamori Foundation to support efforts that advance humankind. Among its initiatives is Case Western Reserve's Inamori Center for Ethics and Excellence, the organization that coordinates the selection and presentation of each year's ethics award recipient. The Inamori Ethics Prize is designed to recognize individuals whose efforts have improved conditions for humankind in remarkable ways. The 2014 Inamori Prize recipient is Dr. Denis Mukwege.
Dr. Mukwege is a physician in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who has dedicated his life to healing women who have suffered some of the most devastating crimes imaginable, brutal sexual violations by soldiers in their country's war. In 1998, he founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in the war torn region of the DRC, which provides care to survivors of gang rape and those with other severe gynecological issues. Since it's inception Dr. Mukwege and his colleagues at the Panzi hospital have treated more than 40,000 rape survivors. In addition to medical support, the Panzi Hospital also provides patients with psychological counseling and legal advice. Dr. Mukwege also founded the Panzi Foundation, which works with victims of sexual violence by providing legal assistance, counseling and training on many topics. Patients who cannot afford care are treated for free.
"Sexual Violence is Everyone's Problem, it's Humanities Problem"
Dr. Mukwege has become the world's leading expert on how to repair the internal damage caused by gang rape. Dr. Mukwege has long been an outspoken international advocate for gender equality and women's rights. He has been recognized by many organizations and institutions for both his medical knowledge and commitment to ending sexual violence in the DRC, including twice being nominated for the Noble Peace Prize in 2009 and 2013.
Dr. Mukwege has fought long and hard to reclassify sexual assaults, gang rapes, and sexual mutilations, often times used as a war tactic as war crimes. He has made various speeches to the UN, UN security council, and other international bodies in attempt to criminalize the use of sexual assault and gang rapes as war crimes, which would hold countries, and organizations whose soldiers perform such acts responsible, as has been done with chemical weapons. However the international delegating bodies have yet to put such measures into place.
"The perpetrators of these crimes destroy life at its entry point. The women can no longer have children. Often they get infected with AIDS and will spread the disease. Their men are humiliated. So the perpetrators destroy the entire social fabric of their enemies, their communities, their future generations, without even killing the woman. A line has been crossed here, which should have been an absolute taboo." -Dr. Mukwege
At Case Western's Academic Symposium Dr. Mukwege told various stories and said various remarks that I think are important, a few of which are mentioned below.
Dr. Mukwege told us about a group of women from a remote village who had made the journey to the Panzi Hospital. Dr. Mukwege explained to us that part of the Hospital's and the Foundation's process was to give these women economic freedom. As is the case with rape survivors globally, these women, like so many of the women Dr. Mukwege see's, were stigmatized and outcast from their community. Now in this remote village the villagers did not have soap. So they taught the women how to make soap. Once they returned to the village, they were no longer seen as victims, because now the whole community turns to them for soap. Thus giving them economic freedom, while reintegrating them into their communities as active respected individuals.
Dr. Mukwege said, Due to the regions political instability. The constant violence over generations has caused the social value of life to be devalorized. The Ebola epidemic has occurred, because of the lack of economic, social and political stability as well as public health. This social devalorization of life prevents any form of real reform to occur.
Dr. Mukwege was very happy to see so many young people in the crowd, he said. "The most important people young people can do is care, because you are more powerful than you imagine, use social media to have your opinions heard."
If you would like learn more about the work of Dr. Denis Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital Click Here, if you'd like to support and donate to the Panzi Hospital Click Here or the Panzi Foundation Click Here. Remember most of the patients Dr. Mukwege and the people at the Panzi Hospital treat do not have the money to afford their care, your donations help keep the Panzi Hospital as a beacon of hope for thousands of women.