Congo has a new problem to add to the ever-growing list of atrocities racking the country. According to an article in The New York Times, it is now popular for men to rape other men in an effort to force Congolese communities into submission. Officials from Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and several Congolese aid organizations say the number of male-on-male rapes has risen sharply as a result of rebel groups seeking revenge for the joint Congo-Rwanda military operations. These armed rebels seek to make civilians do what they want by demoralizing and humiliating them. Experts estimate that the rapes number in the hundreds, and the American Bar Association’s sexual violence legal clinic in Goma, Congo, said that men made up more than 10 percent of its June cases. But no one is sure of the exact number of male rape victims, because there is such an intense stigma associated with homosexuality, in general. (On a similar note, lesbians in South Africa have been the victims of “corrective rape.” Horrifying.)
Victims are ostracized and ridiculed by their communities and report feeling depressed and lonely. A popular insult aimed at the men is “bush wives”—the thinking being that the rebel rapists have turned their male victims into women. The humiliation is often so severe that many victims don’t seek medical attention, unless they have urgent health concerns like stomach swelling and continuous bleeding. Still, others go untreated and some have died as a result. Castration has also become a problem in Congo. [NY Times]
One of the things I just don’t get about this atrocious situation is how men who are relying on the fact that rape and homosexuality, in any form, are humiliating and demoralizing are engaging in homosexuality. Isn’t there some sort of stigma for the aggressor? Or is this one of those societies in which the rapist, even if it’s a male-on-male rape, is just doing what comes naturally—penetrating? Control and submission, I guess, are more important than any questions of masculinity.