SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: THE ROLE OF MEN AND MASCULINITIES

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Title: SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: THE ROLE OF MEN AND MASCULINITIES
Authors: Ganou, Sandra
Date: 2021
Abstract: Since the last two decades, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) confronts a series of conflicts, which have had devastating impacts on men and women. As the conflict arises, so are the cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women. There is a widespread of reports depicting the conflicts in the DRC and the horrific incidents of rape and sexual violence, and almost complete impunity for the perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The DRC has been infamously described as the “rape capital of the world” and the “most dangerous place on earth to be a woman” by Margot Wallström, a UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict (Autesserre 2010). Despite the rising attention paid to gender-based violence and the resources invested in trying to eliminate this phenomenon, records of sexual violence cases are still alarming and have not seen a decrease over time. A closer look indicates that the issue is far more complex and embedded into a broader context of unequal gender relations and general violence that is deeply rooted in masculinity norms prone to violence (Lwambo, D. 2013; Meger 2010; Freedman 2012, 2017). Studies on sexual and gender-based violence have focused essentially on women as victims and men as perpetrators. Most of the dominant literature captures SGBV and its relation to women and their experience, which is without doubt, important to tackling the issue. However, more efforts and sustainable measures have to be put in place. Considering the stagnant result in reducing the cases of SGBV in the DRC, development and gender studies started to shift the focus on women and considering a more gendered approach. This emerging shift in thinking have highlights the key role of men and masculinities and the influence of gender identity as underlying causes for SGBV. In light of the limited focus around the perspective and experience of men and masculinities in understanding the issue of SGBV in the DRC, I chose to explore arguments that consider gender relation more holistically: specifically, by looking at the experience of men perpetrators, to understand what leads to the act and the tolerance of SGBV. The main questions that this research paper is trying to address are: 4 - Where are the men in the discourse of SGBV in the DRC? - What is the role of the masculine gender in the sexual and gender-based violence? - Is the dominant narrative of SGBV as a weapon of war an evidence? While “rape as a weapon of war” has become a trademark element of reports on the DRC, the issue is far more complex and embedded into a broader context of unequal gender relations and general violence (Lwambo, D 2013). Understanding the prevalence of SGBV in the context of conflict requires understanding gendered power relations, specifically in the DRC. Sexualized violence serves as an important role in communicating norms of masculinity, virility, brutality, and loyalty (Cohen, D. K. 2017). I analyze SGBV from a gendered lens and pointing out the relation between masculinity and the prevalence of sexual violence in the DRC. It seeks to explain what role men play in the prevalence of SGBV, why perpetrators commit such acts and how hegemonic forms of masculinities enable violence. I believe that it is crucial to grasp fully why SGBV is still prevalent in the DRC despite ongoing efforts to tackle the issue. Understanding the important factors of masculinities and its relation to sexual violence is essential to better inform policymaking and programs implementation. The structure of this main research paper is as follows: Before starting the main discussion, I introduce the first chapter, which explains the history of conflicts in the DRC, and how SGBV is prevalent during these historical conflicts. This first chapter provides the basis to our analysis. The second chapter explores the main converging factors for the prevalence of SGBV and the main consequences for women. I emphatically point out how the factors of gender violence are complexly connected with pre-existing gender inequality and social norms. In chapter 3, I propose a reflection on the question of SGBV as a weapon of war, based on scholars Baaz and Stern’s arguments in their different rape studies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (mostly 2010, 2013). I seek to challenge the dominant narratives that SGBV is employed systematically as a weapon of war and to include a nuanced perspective to demonstrate that all acts of violence exist on a continuum of violence facilitated by multiple factors. Chapter 4 focuses on the understanding of masculinities. The role that ideal of masculinities compared to the different reality lived by men causes a backlash and fuels behaviors, which leads to acts of violence, including sexual- and gender-based violence. I seek to prove that the influence of 5 gender roles based on patriarchal norms can have an impact on gender construction, thereby contributing to the formation of sexual-based violence and gender-based violence. This section will explore the interdisciplinary lens of psychosocial literature on masculinities. Chapter 5 briefly outlines the impact of such research on policy making and planning and provides avenues for reflection on ways to consider masculinities in further recommendations aiming at tackling SGBV in the DRC. In conclusion, the study argues that understanding SGBV requires an in-depth analysis of gender relation and gender identities. Including men and masculinities is a necessity to bring to light the root causes of the issue of SGBV in the DRC.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/41744
CollectionDIM - Mémoires // IDGS - Research Papers
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