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Women Survivors, Lost Children and Traumatized Masculinities: The Phenomena of Rape and War in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health, International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH). Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research. (International Sexual and Reproductive Health)
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis aims to investigate the phenomenon of war rape in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in order to understand the dynamics, contextual realities and consequences of its perpetration. Practical and theoretical knowledge is generated which is relevant for health care interventions, humanitarian assistance and peace initiatives, that are cognizant of the actual needs of the affected populations.

The study employed ethnographic methodology involving prolonged engagement with the field, participant observation, formal and informal interviews, keeping of field notes and the continuous practice of reflexivity. The four papers in this thesis represent formal interviews with participants from three distinct groups: local leaders (Paper I), ex-child soldier boys (Paper II) and women survivors of sexual violence (Paper III & IV).

Qualitative Content Analysis was used for the interview study with local leaders (Paper I). Findings from this study reveal how mass rape and the methods of perpetration create a chaos effectively destroying communities. The leaders draw attention to the fact that an exclusive focus on raped women misses other structural factors that contribute to war and sexual violence, factors such as the global political economy, international apathy, the stance of the church, effects of militarization, inappropriate aid and interpretations of gender roles.

Through the theoretical lenses of militarised masculinity and gender based violence, interviews with ex-child soldier boys, seen as both victims of war as well as proxy perpetrators of sexual violence, were analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings revealed the systematic and violent construction of children into soldiers, inculcating a rigid set of stereotypical hyper-masculine behaviors promoting dominance by violating the subordinate “other”. These findings argue for a more complex, contextualized view of the perpetrator resulting from the ways society has (re)constructed gender, ethnicity and class.

Papers III and IV reflect the interviews and narratives provided by women survivors. Guided by thematic analysis and a matrix of theories: Structural violence, Intersectionality and “new wars”; Paper III bears witness to the women’s expressions of their profound losses and dispossession as they struggle to survive stigmatization in the impoverished margins of the warzone, along with children born of rape. The perpetrator is cited here as well as by the leaders as predominantly Interhamwe. Payne’s Sites of Resilience model used in Paper IV situates stigmatized women survivors suffering in a global context as they navigate survival, demonstrating resilience in the margins through support from their faith in God, scarce health services, indigenous healing and strategic alliances. Findings suggest that collaborations of existing strengthened networks, ie: the church, healthcare and indigenous healers, could extend the reach of sustainable and holistic support services, positively effecting already identified sites of resilience.

Findings draw attention to the challenges faced by public health in addressing mass trauma. Women’s raped bodies represent tangible material damage, embedded in a matrix of globalization processes and structural violence involving gender, ethnicity and class. This requires serious reflection.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. , 80 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 920
Keyword [en]
Democratic Republic of Congo, war-rape, sexual violence, ethnography, child soldiers, gender, resilience, marginalisation, structural violence, intersectionality, new wars, militarised masculinity, Africa, globalisation
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences Social Sciences
Research subject
Health Care Research; Caring Sciences in Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-204430ISBN: 978-91-554-8711-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-204430DiVA: diva2:639033
Public defence
2013-09-19, IX, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-08-27 Created: 2013-08-05 Last updated: 2014-01-07
List of papers
1. Battles on women's bodies: War, rape and traumatisation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Battles on women's bodies: War, rape and traumatisation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
2011 (English)In: Global Public Health, ISSN 1744-1692, Vol. 6, no 2, 139-152 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Rape has been used as a weapon in the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in unprecedented ways. Research into the phenomenon of war-rape is limited, particularly in this context. The aim of this study was to explore perceptions of local leaders in eastern DRC concerning rape and raped women in the war context. Local leaders were chosen for their ability to both reflect and influence their constituencies. Interviews were conducted with 10 local leaders and transcripts subjected to qualitative content analysis. The study suggests that mass raping and the methods of perpetration created a chaos effectively destroying communities and the entire society and that humanitarian aid was often inappropriate. Furthermore, an exclusive focus on raped women missed the extent of traumatisation entire communities suffered. More significantly, the lack of political will, corruption, greed and inappropriate aid creates a tangled web serving to intensify the war. This complexity has implications for humanitarian interventions including public health.

Keyword
Democratic Republic of Congo, war-rape, sexual violence, local leaders, humanitarian aid
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-122332 (URN)10.1080/17441690903212065 (DOI)000289426100003 ()19787519 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2010-04-08 Created: 2010-04-08 Last updated: 2013-08-29Bibliographically approved
2. Constructing Soldiers from Boys in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Constructing Soldiers from Boys in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
2013 (English)In: Men and Masculinities, ISSN 1097-184X, E-ISSN 1552-6828, Vol. 16, no 2, 203-227 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study is part of an ethnography focusing on war rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where child soldiers are both victims and perpetrators of violence. Twelve ex-child soldier boys, aged thirteen to eighteen years, from a reintegration facility were interviewed about their soldiering experiences and their perspectives on sexual violence. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Conceptual frameworks of militarized masculine identity and gender-based violence guided the process. Results revealed the systematic and violent construction of children into soldiers, inculcating a "militarized masculinity"; a rigid set of stereotypical hypermasculinized behaviors promoting dominance by violating, sexually and otherwise, the subordinate "other." This was achieved through terrorizing/coercing, use of indigenous preparations, substance abuse, and forbidden reflection. This article presents a more contextualized complex view of the violent perpetrator whose behaviors are a manifestation of the modes and mechanisms in which society has constructed/reconstructed gender, ethnicity, and class, and the power dynamics therein.

Keyword
sub-Saharan Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), ethnography, child soldiers, militarized masculinity, sexual violence, war, gender
National Category
Social Sciences Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-202911 (URN)10.1177/1097184X12470113 (DOI)000319223300004 ()
Conference
Conference on In Relation to What - Critical Gender Studies on Masculinities and Relationality, 18-20 JAN, 2012, Uppsala, SWEDEN
Available from: 2013-07-01 Created: 2013-07-01 Last updated: 2017-01-25Bibliographically approved
3. The global, the ethnic and the gendered war::  Women, rape and dispossesion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The global, the ethnic and the gendered war::  Women, rape and dispossesion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Objective:  The purpose of this study was to explore and illuminate the perspectives and experiences of women of sexual violence perpetrated in the conflict, defined as a ‘new war’ in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  ‘New wars’ indicative of the changing nature of warfare, target civilians and involve raping, looting and pillaging.

Design: The paper is based on eleven qualitative semi-structured interviews and four written narratives collected from women of reproductive age, recruited from a variety of organizations providing support after sexual violation. This study departs from a larger ethnographic project investigating the phenomenon of war-rape. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data through the theoretical lenses of structural violence and intersectionality.

Results: Women expressed total insecurity and a multitude of losses from bodily integrity, health and loss of family, life course possibilities, livelihoods and a sense of place/belonging; a profound dispossession of identity and marginalization. Pregnancies resulting from rape reinforced stigma and burdened the survivor with difficult decisions concerning raising a stigmatized child on the margins of society. Perpetrators of rape were most commonly identified as Interhamwes (Rwandan Hutu rebels) whose goal was to spread HIV, impregnate and claim Congolese women, thereby destroying families and society.

Conclusion:  Sexually violated women survivors of war experience profound losses. Congo’s conflict reflective of ‘new wars’ involving global, ethnic and gendered dimensions requires imperative critical reflection on how these local wars and subsequent human suffering are situated in a matrix of globalization processes enabled by transnational actors and embedded in structural violence.

Keyword
sexual violence, gender, new wars, Democratic Republic of Congo, structural violence, globalization
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences Social Sciences
Research subject
Caring Sciences in Social Sciences; International Health
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-204436 (URN)
Projects
PhD project investigating phenomena of war-rape in Democratic Republic of Congo
Available from: 2013-08-05 Created: 2013-08-05 Last updated: 2013-08-29
4. Against all odds:: Women Survivors of Sexual Violence in the War in Eastern Democrtic Republic of Congo
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Against all odds:: Women Survivors of Sexual Violence in the War in Eastern Democrtic Republic of Congo
Show others...
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study is part of an ethnographic focus on the phenomena of war rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Its purpose was to explore and illuminate how women survivors of sexual violence navigated and negotiated “survive-ing” in the stigmatized margins of an already impoverished existence. The paper departs from a previous study where women expressed multiple losses and profound dispossession of identity with subsequent marginalization often with a child born of rape in tow.

The findings are based on eleven qualitative in-depth interviews with rural women of reproductive age recruited from a variety of organizations supporting women after sexual violation. Thematic analysis and Payne’s theoretical framework concerning sites of resilience guided the analysis. Results indicated how the women exhibited agency, proactive decisions and resilience in severely compromised environments embedded in a larger oppressive complexity. Their faith in God, limited health interventions that challenge cultural understandings around sexuality, indigenous healing, and strategic alliances, ie aid organizations or survival sex supported these women to manage their daily existence in the margins. These survival strategies are identified as sites of resilience and are vital contextual knowledge for planning effective interventions. The findings suggest that strengthening collaboration between existing networks such as the church, healthcare and indigenous healing practices would extend the reach of health services, offering more sustainable holistic care and in effect, better serve the needs of sexual violated individuals but as well the entire community, subjected to mass traumatization.

Keyword
Democratic Republic of Congo, ethnography, sexaul violence, war, gender, resilience, marginalization, church, indigenous healing
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences Social Sciences
Research subject
Caring Sciences in Social Sciences; International Health
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-204439 (URN)
Projects
PhD project investigating war rape in eastern DRC
Available from: 2013-08-05 Created: 2013-08-05 Last updated: 2013-08-29

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