Violence against Women and Information Communication Technologies: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Country Report


The DRC population
is estimated at 60 million inhabitants, of which 51%
are women. For 15 years, DRC experienced instability
caused by internal conflict and external pressure. It has one of the
most serious human rights violation records in the world. Women and
girls are the victims of sexual violence perpetrated mostly by
combatants from both sides. Rape and sexual violence is used as a
weapon of war. Victims are discouraged from filing
complaints because of lack of confidence in the legal system and
strong presence of men in the judiciary. But
there is growing mobilisation of
women and human rights organisations in the fight to
end violence against women (VAW) in
partnership with the United Nations and international organisations.


Legislation and VAW: Women now occupy 8.4% of seats in parliament, which is an
improvement. There are
national laws that protect women and girls against violence. These
include, the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo; the
Law on Sexual
Violence; the
Family Code; the Labour Code and the Criminal Code. DRC has ratified
CEDAW and the Protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’
Rights on the Rights of Women
in Africa
. Resolution 1820 of the United Nations Security Council
points out that rape and other forms of sexual violence can
constitute a war crime. All these provisions exist to protect female
victims of violence; however they are often not enforced.


Information and
communication technology
(ICT):
The lack of broadband infrastructure and networks do not
support the development of the ICT sector in DRC. Sixty-seven
percent of the population lives in rural area and does not
have access to ICTs. Internet services are under-developed and access
costs are unaffordable to most. The number of fixed line
subscribers does not exceed 10,000 and that of internet users,
approximately 100,000. The number of cybercafés is small with
approximately 210 cybercafés in the country, of which 65% are
in the capital, Kinshasa. There are only 5 or 6 internet
service providers that are operational of an estimated 30. On the other hand, mobile telephony has seen a very strong
expansion, surpassing 300,000 subscribers in the year 2000
with nearly 10 to 12 million lines (many subscribers have two lines),
and a penetration rate about 20%. Sex-disaggregated data is not
available.


Intersections
between violence against women and girls and ICTs in the DRC are
not well established. There are cases of men and boys using mobile
phones to film their female partners nude and transmitting them via
Bluetooth1.
Women and girls seldom have means of defending themselves. Mobile
phones are used frequently as a method of control over married women.
The internet makes it possible to share
experiences and receive information to advance the cause of women’s
rights but can facilitate violence towards Congolese women and girls.
Poorly trained in the use of ICT tools, Congolese women and girls do
not have a technical framework for using ICT to counter the violence
they experience.
Professional women in the media often denounce
they experience sexual harassment, without anything being
done.



ICTs
used in combating VAW:
Projects using ICTs to combat violence
against women and girls in the DRC are often implemented by
international organisations; very few local women's rights activists
and organisations have the ability or the technical and financial
means to do so. There are radio and television
programmes in French and Lingala which play a vital role on matters
related to violence against women and girls and which use cell phones
to involve listeners and give a forum to voices that would have no
other means of access to media. ICTs are used to protect human rights
defenders who are often threatened.


Recommendations


For
government:
promote
competition in the telecommunications


Footnotes

1Bluetooth
is a wireless protocol for exchanging data over short distances from
fixed and mobile devices


Region

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