In the vast majority of crimes in DRC, the criminals responsible suffer no legal consequences for their actions. Respondents to ECI’s opinion polling across the DRC who were witnesses to a crime reported that only in one in three had received any form of punishment. Sylvie (name changed) was raped while she was still a minor, resulting in a pregnancy when she was just 16 years old.
Sylvie is not alone. In ECI’s opinion polling of thousands of people across DRC, 15% of respondents identified rape as the most common crime in their community, and 66% reported that individuals responsible for serious crimes received no punishment. The high level of impunity in DRC, especially in the eastern provinces affected by conflict, leaves many survivors without recourse to justice, while the perpetrators of these crimes remain free.
The Female Lawyers Movement (Dynamique des femmes juristes, DFJ), an all-women legal collective, works on behalf of survivors of gender-based violence to end the culture of impunity in eastern Congo. DFJ supports survivors of sexual violence and other serious crimes, providing legal support so that they can formally document their case and bring it before a court. Sylvie worked with DFJ to gather evidence, build a legal case against her attacker, and was successfully obtain a guilty verdict. Sylvie said, “I have to thank DFJ for all of their help. I feel stable today and this helps me to go on and live my life.”
ECI has partnered with DFJ since 2011, and last year provided grants to the group allowing them the hire 40 additional legal professionals and train 140 judges, government officials and members of local organizations on advocacy and women’s rights. A total of 30 cases were taken to court through the project last year, with 15 verdicts delivered. If you are interested in learning more about these inspiring women, they have produced a video telling their story, which you can find here: