DR Congo’s Denis Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize for teaching us about sexual violence

Dr. Denis Mukwege
Dr. Denis Mukwege
Image: Reuters/Yves Herman
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For almost two decades, Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege has dedicated his career to treating survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His vital work in that field has finally been rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize.

Alongside Nadia Murad, an Iraqi human rights activist, Mukwege, 63, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 for “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. Mukwege has been “the foremost, most unifying symbol both nationally and internationally of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflict,” the Committee also said.

Like Mukwege, Murad has led advocacy against sexual violence as a war weapon. Murad was kidnapped by ISIS in 2014 aged 21 and has gone on to share moving testimonies of her rape and torture as well as the plight of thousands of women since escaping the extremist group. The Nobel committee says she’s shown “uncommon courage in recounting her own suffering”.

Much of Mukwege’s work treating survivors of rape and sexual abuse in DR Congo has been done in Panzi hospital which he founded in 1999. Amid years of violence by armed and rebel groups in the country, rape has been consistently used as a weapon of war and the United Nations estimates that around 200,000 Congolese women have been raped since 1998. Through the hospital which also provides trauma counseling, Mukwege has treated thousands of victims of sexual violence and is regarded as a leading expert on repairing rape injuries. With access to appropriate treatment and healthcare for rape survivors scarce, Mukwege, who at one point averaged 10 new cases daily, has filled a crucial gap.

It’s not the first time Mukwege’s work has gained international recognition. He’s been previously nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is a recipient of several awards including the Seoul Peace Prize and the United Nations Prize in the field of human rights. Two years ago, Time magazine named him among the world’s top 100 influential people. He’s the latest in a growing list of Africans to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

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