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venerdì 13 maggio 2011
UNO STUPRO AL MINUTO
A STUDY by American scientists estimates that nearly 2 million women have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with women victimised at a rate of nearly one every minute.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, is one of the first comprehensive looks at the prevalence of rape in Congo. It says that the problem is much bigger and more pervasive than previously thought. Women have reported alarming levels of sexual abuse in the capital and in provinces far from Congo's war-torn east, a sign that the problem extends beyond the nation's primary conflict zone.
''Not only is sexual violence more generalised,'' the study said, ''but our findings suggest that future policies and programs should focus on abuse within families.''
For the past 15 years, Congo has been racked by rebel groups that terrorise civilians, particularly in the east, often to exploit the country's mineral riches. UN officials have called Congo the centre of rape as a weapon of war, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited rape victims in eastern Congo in 2009 in an effort to draw more attention to one of Africa's most intractable and disturbing conflicts.
Many areas of Congo are inaccessible - cut off by thick forests and warring groups - and many victims have been too frightened to speak out.
The conclusions in the new study, by three public health researchers - Amber Peterman of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Tia Palermo of Stony Brook University and Caryn Bredenkamp of the World Bank - are based on extrapolations from a household survey done in 2007 of 3436 Congolese women nationwide. The researchers found that around 12 per cent were raped at least once in their lifetime and 3 per cent were raped in the one-year period before the survey.
Around 22 per cent had been forced by their partners to have sex or perform sexual acts against their will, the study showed. The women, aged 15 to 49, were interviewed in a demographic and health survey partly financed by the US government.
The study's authors used current population estimates, which put Congo's population at around 70 million, to extrapolate that as many as 1.8 million women have been raped, with up to 433,785 raped in the one-year period - almost a rape a minute.
Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, which has sent doctors to Congo to treat rape victims, said that there were ''some limitations in the methodology, such as the sampling methods and the sample sizes'' of the study. But ''the important message remains: that rape and sexual slavery have become amazingly commonplace in this region of the DRC and have defined this conflict as a war against women.''
The authors believe the rape problem may be worse than their study suggests. The findings are based on survey results from females of reproductive age, but many reports and witness accounts have shown that armed men often gang-rape young girls - some even toddlers - and elderly women in their 70s and older, in addition to a growing number of men and boys. Also, many rape victims never report being assaulted because of the shame and stigma.