Ten years ago, Denis Mukwege spoke before the United Nations Security Council about the use of sexual violence as an act of war. One of the members of the council asked why they had to talk about it.
Mukwege’s life’s work is dedicated to showing people why the issues of sexual violence and war are important, important enough to warrant discussion at the UN.
Mukwege was awarded the the Inamori Ethics Prize on Oct. 1, an honor that is given away annually to a person who has made a significant ethical contribution to the world. Mukwege was given the award because of his work with the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Panzi Hospital has treated more than 40,000 women who have suffered severe gynecological problems as the result of sexual violence. The hospital tries to help its patients with their medical, psychological, legal, and social and economical issues.
Mukewege would particularly like to focus on social and economical help in the future.
“We notice that women remain in the state of victims if they remain economically dependent,” Mukwege said at the Academic Symposium, held on Oct. 1 at the Tinkham Veale University Center. “When they gain economic power, it’s the community that looks to them, not the women that look to the community.”
Mukwege talked about one situation in which he trained victims of sexual violence to make soap, which was a good not available locally in their community. When they started contributing economically to the community, Mukwege said that their stigma of being sexual assault victims started to go away.
Mukwege was joined at the talk by Katie Hanna, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence; Laura Hengehold, associate professor of philosophy; and James Kazura, professor of international health, medicine and pathology and director of the Center for Global Health and Diseases. The talk was moderated by Shannon E. French, the Inamori Professor of Ethics.
Mukwege’s work has been instrumental in helping to increasing international discussion about the use of sexual violence as an act of war. Recently, the United Kingdom held a conference attended by over 150 countries that discussed how to end rape in war.
Mukwege wants to propose sanctions and other measures against countries that use rape in war, treating sexual violence with the same seriousness that countries treat chemical and nuclear weapons.
“To me, that conference was a conference of hope,” Mukwege said. “That was a start, a beginning of something that would launch a wake-up call around the world. What we wished to see after that would be concrete and strong action, and that is the part that remains to be seen.”