Author Topic: Denis Mukwege, an African Voice Against Rape, Is Honored by Europe  (Read 1176 times)

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Offline mayya

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Denis Mukwege, an African Voice Against Rape, Is Honored by Europe


The European Parliament has awarded its highest human rights accolade, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecological surgeon who has treated thousands of women and risked his life in a campaign to end the use of mass rape as a weapon of war.

The $65,000 award was established in 1988 in honor of the Soviet dissident Andrei D. Sakharov. Previous winners include Nelson Mandela; Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general; and Malala Yousafzai, one of the recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, for which Dr. Mukwege was a front-runner.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said in astatement on Tuesday that Dr. Mukwege, 59, had been chosen “for his fight for protection, especially of women.” He will be invited to Strasbourg, France, to receive the award on Nov. 26, the statement said.

“In many armed conflicts around the world, rape is used as a weapon of war,” the statement said. Dr. Mukwege helped victims in his country, theDemocratic Republic of Congo, by founding the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in 1998, and he still treats victims of sexual violence.

Denis Mukwege in Stockholm last year.CreditHugues Honore/Agence France-Presse — Getty 

ImagesWhile the war in Congo may be formally over, the citation said, “the armed conflict still continues in the eastern part of the country, and so do attacks against civilians, including gang rapes.”

The statement acknowledged other contenders for the prize, mentioning Ukrainian campaigners who took to the streets of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, last year in an uprising demanding closer ties to the European Union, and Leyla Yunus, a human rights campaigner in Azerbaijan.

Dr. Mukwege is known for his work in one of the most traumatized places in the world. In the hills above Bukavu, where for years there was little electricity or anesthetics, Dr. Mukwege has performed surgery on countless women, some a few steps away from death, who have reached his hospital.
As the director of the Panzi Hospital, Dr. Mukwege has been a steadying presence amid the turmoil. In a white surgeon’s coat and Crocs, he focuses on healing the physical damage and the psychological trauma that follow sexual assault, helping support job-creation programs and leadership training for rape victims. He is known for his understated charisma and his seemingly bottomless reservoir of empathy.

He has campaigned relentlessly to shine a spotlight on the plight of Congolese women, even after an assassination attempt two years ago.

“It’s not a women question; it’s a humanity question, and men have to take responsibility to end it,” Dr. Mukwege said in an interview last year. “It’s not an Africa problem. In Bosnia, Syria, Liberia, Colombia, you have the same thing.”

In 2012, Dr. Mukwege delivered a fiery speech at the United Nations, upbraiding the Congolese government and other nations for not doing enough to stop what he called “an unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war.”

Shortly after the speech, he returned to Congo, and four armed men crept into his compound in Bukavu. They took his children hostage and waited for him to return from work. In the hail of bullets that followed, his guard was killed, but Dr. Mukwege threw himself on the ground and somehow survived.

He spent more than two months in exile recuperating, but then decided that in spite of the risks, he had to return.

“To treat women for the first time, second time, and now I’m treating the children born after rape,” Dr. Mukwege said in the interview. “This is not acceptable.”

Congo has been continuously pillaged by armed groups and its own leaders, leaving a vortex of instability in the nation’s east. Dr. Mukwege has emerged as a champion of Congo’s people, even stoking hopes that one day he might run for president.

Susannah Sirkin, the director for international policy at Physicians for Human Rights, who has worked closely with Dr. Mukwege, called him “a fierce advocate for peace and equality for women in his country.”

She said he was deeply disturbed and emboldened by “treating one woman after another, sending them back to a war zone only to be raped again or ostracized by their communities.”
Nicholas Kulish contributed reporting.