Rape Epidemic in Congo: Blogger Ends 40-Day Hunger Strike

BlogHer Original Post

Elizabeth Blackney, who blogs at Media Lizzy & Friends, today completed the 40th day of her 40-day hunger strike to call attention to what she describes as "the unprecedented sexual and gender based violence ongoing" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Day 40, #HungerStrike. 46,080 girls & women, aged 15-49, were raped in #Congo. So much for #Obama's moral imperative doctrine. #tcot #p2less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Today, Blackney tweeted a report by the International Business Times, that the United Nations Security Council has renewed a peacekeeping mandate in Congo in response to continued violence against women, including a reported mass rape of some 170 women earlier in June. According to the Business Times,

Congo is known as the "rape capital of the world," mostly due to the county's near-lawless east, which is patrolled by gangs and militias. In April, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that an average of 14 rapes are reported each day, but "the real numbers could be much higher considering that many survivors keep silent for fear of being ostracized."

A study released last month estimates the number to be much higher: 1,152 women raped every day, or 48 per hour.

Congolese rape victim
Image: © Mary F. Calvert/ZUMApress.com

On May 19, in a post titletd Rape in Congo: Don't Look Away, Blackney called for a special U.S. envoy to to the Great Lakes region of the country, in conjunction with advocacy group A Thousand Sisters. Blackney wrote:

More than awareness – this is about real people, real lives. The women of Congo love as we do. They fall in love. Out of love. Share bonds of sisterhood. Their sons have a sense of fraternity. They know joy. They know pride. They bear children, just as we do. They are our brothers and sisters, we are theirs. Even with those universal truths, shared values – the world looks away from the horror – as the women of Congo bear unimaginable burdens.

Since announcing her fast on May 21, Blackney has reported consuming only water, honey and vegetable broth.

The White House has made no official statement on gender-based violence in Congo in response to Blackney's action. I emailed Blackney today to ask her thoughts on completing her fast tonight. Here's what she said:

As a girl, a woman, a mother, nothing is more important to me than justice. The girls and women of Congo suffer unimaginable brutalities, day after day. Taking up my hunger strike to honor them has been a blessing to me, and hopefully will bring more awareness to the highest rate in recorded human history of Sexual and Gender Based violence. Challenging President Obama's complete silence is also a goal, by appointing and empowering a Special Envoy, the United States could be a voice of reason and a force for good as President Kabila and the Congolese people prepare for elections this November.

Have you ever been on a hunger strike? Do you think they're effective politically?

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