Recently, in Bikoro, Equateur Province, I met the family of a young 9 year old girl who had been raped. When the father caught the rapist committing the act in flagrant, he immediately brought him to the police. But he was quickly released, without any repercussion from the justice system.
This situation is unfortunately not unique in Bikoro… We often hear stories of cases of rape and sexual violence that are settled on a friendly basis and not by the justice system. Police advise the victims to negotiate an arrangement directly with their tormentors. If the victim is a minor, it is the parents who negotiate an arrangement. Worse still! Police officers take advantage of this type situation to collect large sums of money from the families of the rapists in return for releasing them. All the tormentors have to do is to pay in order to not be hassled by the justice system… They continue to live their life quietly after they have destroyed the lives of their victims.
The police do not seem to be doing anything for victims of sexual violence. On the contrary, their practices even encourage men to continue as they know they will not be hassled. Yet, Article 34 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that “States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”. Even if they do not have the means to send the perpetrators to court in Mbandaka, located more than 100 kilometres from Bikoro, they should not be making money by releasing them. They must respect the laws that are established and guarantee the protection of every woman and child.
Victims of sexual violence are victimized not only by their tormentors, but also by the police.
Translated from French by Marguerite McMillan
Firstly published on September 2018
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