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Women move from rape to slavery in DRC

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Summary of story from The Guardian, September 2, 2011

Women driven out of their villages by militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being forced into exploitative work in the country’s mining sector.

Traditionally engaged in farming, the women now find their fields are too dangerous as they are in forests occupied by rebels.

“If you choose to get food from the field you have to accept that you’re going to be raped,” said Patience Kengwa, 30, who works at Kamituga gold mine.

She fled her village, Luliba, after being raped five times in two and a half years. Now she pounds rocks and carries heavy sacks, earning between 50 cents and a dollar a day.

Various militias have been fighting each other in east Congo for more than a decade, raping and looting with impunity. The greed for the region’s vast mineral wealth has made the situation worse.

Even the UN mission in Congo, Monusco, which has 19,000 peacekeepers costing $1.4bn (£8.7m) a year, is implicated in illegal practices involving minerals.

Dominique Bikaba, director of Strong Roots, an environmental charity that works with miners to improve their conditions, has condemned the situation.

“These girls and women are working in the mines in conditions of slavery. They earn less than a dollar a day and are often forced to work harder than they are physically capable of working,” he said.

WVoN comment: As part of sweeping reforms in the US under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Congo Rule, if it is approved, will require companies that source minerals from the DRC to file a report with the American financial regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

They must clarify whether raw materials they use such as tungsten, tantalum, tin, and gold – used in the manufacture of everyday electronics such as mobile phones and laptops or jewellery – originated in the DRC or surrounding African countries.

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