A shocking new report released this week found that one in three men in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) admits to committing violent sexual assault. The study by the Sonke Gender Justice Network found that 75% of men also believed that a women who "does not dress decently is asking to be raped."
The continuing cycle of violence in the DRC has led a UN official to label the country the "rape capital of the world". Since 1998, over half a million women have been raped. Over half of the men interviewed believed that sometimes women deserve to be beaten, while even more alarmingly almost a quarter of those surveyed agreed that women want to be raped.
War in eastern Congo has killed and displaced millions over nearly two decades – and rape has become an integral tool of this war, with rival gangs sexually violating women to assert their dominance and strength.
Western donor countries have recently stepped up their efforts to force a change in attitudes by bringing more perpetrators to justice. But until the root causes of the violence are addressed – not least poor governance, the scramble for the country's mineral resources, brazen flouting of the international arms embargoes and the deadly interference of neighbours – these efforts will only serve as an ineffectual bandage for a much larger wound.
Learn more: The UN has accused neighbouring "aid darling" Rwanda of supporting the new militia causing havoc in the DRC. How has this happened?
Sources: Sonke Gender Justice Network, BBC, Guardian, Avaaz