After a decade of war that has witnessed hundreds of thousands of women falling victim to the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, Congolese women and girls still live in daily fear of attack. Attack from armed groups, attack from civilians. The long awaited hopes of peace following the signing of a peace deal in 2002, and the general election in 2006 were never realised in the country's east where violence still persists today.

In June 2008, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to classify rape as a weapon of war. Stating that sexual violence is 'a war crime, a crime against humanity, a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in and forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.'

These images and interviews were taken back in March 2005 in the east of the Democractic Republic of Congo, however such horrifying accounts of sexual violence are still being heard from women and children on a mass scale today, and the justice systems continues to fail these victims as the perpetrators remain at large in the communities.

Womens' day to day activities make them especially vulnerable, as they travel far into remote areas to fetch water, to harvest food in their shamba, or to sell produce in a market. These are the times when many are attacked, or else the perpetrators come at night while they are sleeping in their homes.

Survivors of rape face social and economic exclusion in their communities as well as the unimaginable psychological and physical damage and it is the work of organisations such as HEAL Africa in Goma which is so vital in helping these women to recover not only in terms of health but also on a social and economic level.

Georgina Cranston - Photographer

Rape as a weapon of war in DRC
'Jane', 44, was travelling to sell clothes with other women in a market 75 kms away. On the way the military stopped them. "They took everything we had. They were shooting their guns... more >>