Dr. Denis Mukwege

I want to tell you a story about Dr. Denis Mukwege; a man I consider to be incredibly inspiring and courageous.

When war broke out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Dr. Mukwege had 35 patients killed in his hospital in Lemera. He fled to Bukavu where he opened a hospital with what he had available (made from tents) and eventually built a maternity ward with an operating theatre. In 1998 this was also destroyed, so he started again in 1999.

In 1999, he had a patient come into his hospital who had been a victim of extremely brutal sexual violence – bent on destruction – and he treated her, assuming this was an anomaly. Within three months, 45 more women came to seek his services each with an equally brutal story. He saw a pattern and realized this was not just sexual violence, but that rape was being used to destroy communities.

Dr. Mukwege instigated several stages of care beginning with a psychological examination to determine whether the women have the resiliency to undergo surgery and recovery. The next stage involves whatever medical care is necessary; this is dependent on the type of violence and can range from basic medical care to reconstructive surgery. He then connects patients with socio-economic care as many patients arrive with nothing (not even clothing). Patients require the ability to be able to care for themselves after they leave the hospital, so they undergo skills and jobs training while in recovery, they can access education, and they build strong support systems with those who protect their dignity. Lastly, patients are connected with legal services as in most cases they are aware of who their assailants were but might not be aware of their legal rights.

Dr. Mukwege’s work is integral to the safety, dignity, and well-being of women within the DRC, yet as sexual violence is often used as a weapon of war Dr. Mukwege became a target because he was helping women live. Because he fought for these women’s rights to live, because he provides them with the tools to live with dignity he was targeted. Dr. Mukwege and his family were targeted and very nearly killed. Following the attack he brought his family to Brussels, however he could not leave his work. He came back to the DRC. In his words,

I was inspired to return by the determination of Congolese women to fight these atrocities. These women have taken the courage to protest about my attack to the authorities. They even grouped together to pay for my ticket home – these are women who do not have anything, they live on less than a dollar a day.

These women formed groups of 20 and stand guard at the hospital day and night to ensure that those seeking and providing care are safe. To date, he has treated over 30,000 women for injuries related to extreme sexual violence and currently sees roughly 10 patients per day.

This week he was recognized for his extraordinary work with the Sakharov prize – Europe’s top human rights prize. It’s this man’s extraordinary work, it’s the dedication and resilience of the women who stand by him and seek his services that inspire me to pursue the research I’m interested in. It’s people like this and the people that he sees every single day that remind me of the importance of this.

Learn more and look up his incredible work at the Panzi Hospital (most of it’s in French so you can also message me and I’ll explain it in English).

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Sharing some old stuff I wrote

Hey guys,

It’s been a while since I posted anything on here, however I intend to get back into the trend of using this space to explore some more academic pursuits and using it as a space to ‘free write’ when ideas come to me – to remain in the practice of writing academically.

However, until that happens, I thought I would share part of a paper I wrote a while ago. So read on if you’re interested, I’d love to hear your thoughts and if this is a topic you are interested in, I would be happy to share the full document.

Creating the Body: Social Media and Sexual Violence

This paper will explore the intersections of the body as a sexed and gendered space through the lens of social and cultural construction and will view the concepts of sex and gender as inherently performative. Using the context of sexual violence and narratives surrounding sexual violence within North America this paper will explore if and how sexual violence (re)produces understandings of the body or (re)constitutes the body. Through this process, the paper hopes to explore whether narratives of sexual violence and victimhood can be understood through discourses of performativity and the body. Simone de Beauvoir’s statement that ’one is not born, but rather, becomes a woman’ is incredibly salient for the purposes of this paper as it is through performativity that one embodies the sexed or gendered body (De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]). Through the process of ’becoming‘ woman, the body is marked as deviant from the male body and within the process of ‘becoming’ it is important to question the role of social media in producing normative bodies and of sexual violence in marking some bodies (Butler, 1990; De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]).

In a sense, this paper operates on the assumption that the body does exist as a social space through which individuals can embody sex and gender, but also as a space through which performativity is read by an external audience through the lens of culture and society (Butler, 1990; De Beauvoir, 2011 [1949]). By examining the body through these processes, I hope to understand the impacts that sexual violence has both as creating an imprint on the body but also in how performativity is read (Foucault, 1977 [1975]; Foucault, 1978 [1976]). Within recent media attention and within sexual violence research, we have seen a trend away from (re)victimizing those who have experienced sexual violence; this, alongside the extremely low instances of reposing sexual violence demonstrates there is something salient about how people are perceived if they are open about experiences of sexual violence (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2008). I argue that the importance of these perceptions can be understood through an analysis of the body and of performativity in the context of sexual violence and social media.

To do so, this paper will follow some common experiences that occur prior to, during, and following  instances of sexual violence — particularly as represented through social media — using three  recent cases from North America;  herein referred to as the Ohio case, the Missouri case, and the Nova Scotia case — these cases will also be referred to collectively where inferences can be made. . .

Inequality will not be tolerated.

“This is the first time women have gathered to protest the kind of daily violence many of them put up with.”
Ravi Nessman

I find it both sad and empowering that this is the first time women have gathered to protest the kind of daily violence many of them put up with. Imagine putting up with sexual violence, harassment, rape, abuse, violence, etc. every single day and having no opportunity for recourse? No opportunity for justice or self-protection? Even worse, imagine having people tell you that it’s your fault you were raped? Imagine the very people who are supposed to promote justice and safety telling you its your fault you were raped?

It is empowering because this never has to happen again. It’s empowering because it is an opportunity for change – not only in India, but around the world. This is a chance to teach women and families that men and women are equal, that no person deserves to experience violence, and that such violence and inequality will not be tolerated.

We should not be scared of going out…

“We should not be scared of going out and we shouldn’t have to protect ourselves with cooking ingredients.”

-Kajol Batra, a 28 year old student in Delhi responding to a senior Indian police officer who told women to avoid rape by not going out at dark and carrying chili powder to throw at offenders.

Abstract – Genocide: Perpetrated through Sexual Violence

I’ve recently finished a paper which examined the ways in which sexual violence can constitute acts of genocide and it’s a paper I’d like to continue to develop with additional research and additional case studies to better represent a variety of geographical locations. For the meantime, I thought I would share my abstract and once the mark from class becomes official I will share the rest of the paper as well.

Genocide and sexual violence are relatively new topics in the realm of international humanitarian law, yet their interconnectivity has caused some of the worst humanitarian crisis from the twentieth century into the present time. In understanding the ways in which specific instances of sexual violence have contributed to and constituted acts of genocide it can be argued that, in context, sexual violence can be a means and act of genocide. Through analysis of secondary sources and government reports this paper will examine the experiences of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to demonstrate the ways in which sexual violence has been used as a tool of genocide.