ARU - Launch of an Awareness Campaign Against Sexual Violence
5 May 2008 - 14:42
(United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo -- The Public Information Section/ARU, in cooperation with the Gender Office, the "Forum des Mamans d'Aru" (ARU Women's Forum) and many NGOs that deal with the sexual violence issue, launched an awareness campaign on 2 May 2008 in that territory.
The program began in Odro Camp, which is about 5 km from Aru and the headquarters of the first Brigade in Ituri. For three hours, 150 FARDC elements-soldiers, officers and non-commissioned officers-attended a session aimed at making known the 20 July 2006 law on sexual violence, its innovations, the description of violations of the law and the resulting penalty.
The attention of the military was drawn particularly to the fact that their praiseworthy mission of protecting the territory and the population makes them liable to heavier penalties at the military court... compared to penalties that would be inflicted to civilians for the same violations.
After interventions by the sensitizers, the question of pushing up the age of victims of sexual violence, from originally 14 to 18 in the new law, added fuel to the debate fire. The military stated that this part of the law was in conflict with the traditional habits in many ethnic groups in Congo, especially in the territory of Aru where most communities do not openly disapprove marrying or having intercourse with girls at age 15, 16 or 17.
In that context, attorney Jean-Louis Nzokana, member of the "Synergie contre les violences sexuelles" (Synergy against sexual violence) in Aru, made himself very clear as he declared that consent from a minor is not legally recognized and that anyone who did not comply simply broke the law. But he also gave assurances, adding that the law was made by Congolese and that it aims to govern this society. There still is sometimes the possibility of marrying a minor girl if her parents agree and the judge approves of it.
This sensitization activity for the military is to be followed by two others in Aru city. On Monday 5 May, the organizers will meet the police in their headquarters and on Wednesday 7 May a conference will be organized for opinion leaders and religious leaders, chiefs of minor administrative localities, heads of schools and universities as well as the civil society. Then, the convoy against sexual violence will depart for eight other territories to sensitize: Ondolea, Ariwara, Mbokolo, Otse, Yuku, Adranga, Biringui and Mado.