To the Editor:
We have both spent time in eastern Congo and met girls and women who have experienced almost unimaginable brutality at the hands of combatants on all sides of the devastating conflict in Congo. As the rapes are unrelenting and the consequences are deadly, V-Day and Unicef (on behalf of United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict) have begun a new initiative to protect women and girls against rape and sexual torture in eastern Congo.
The initiative calls for an end to impunity for sexual violence, for measures to ensure that state armed forces and police do not perpetrate sexual violence against women and girls and for the full enforcement of national laws that protect and empower women.
Rape and other torture against women and girls in Congo and in other conflicts around the world can be addressed. Rape is abhorrent and unacceptable, but it is also preventable.
What is needed is a huge commitment from the government of Congo, the governments of neighboring countries and the entire international community, including the United Nations, to prioritize the safety and security of women and girls in Congo. They deserve no less.
Ann M. Veneman
New York, Oct. 8, 2007