Documentary on Congolese hero doctor opens film fest

| November 10, 2015

Dr. Denis Mukwege(GIN)—Dr. Denis Mukwege is the star of a new documentary that uplifts women who have been raped and abused in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Thousands of women were saved from lives of pain, humiliation and rejection by this dedicated gynecologist. While he sewed up their insides that had been torn to shreds by soldiers, he persuaded them to take another chance at life and many did.

So why is the DRC government banning the film?

“There is a clear intent to harm and sully the image of our army and no country in the world could tolerate it,” Lambert Mende, the DRC’s media minister, told the AFP news agency in Kinshasa.  “That is why we have banned the showing of the film here.”

“The Man Who Mends Women,” follows the activity of Dr. Mukwege in the Panzi Hospital he founded in 1999. He runs the facility in the city of Bukavu while operating on several rape victims each day.

The DRC has been described as the “rape capital of the world” by a U.N. representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict. In 2011, a report claimed that some 48 women were raped every hour in the country.

Mukwege, 59, was awarded the Sakharov prize, considered one of Europe’s most prestigious human rights prizes, for helping thousands of rape victims. It is reported that since 1999, Mukwege saved the lives of more than 40,000 women, many of whom suffered brutal sexual assault by soldiers and militias.

Mukwege and the hospital he set up offers not just life-saving surgery but hope, and recognition of their suffering.

At the Sakharov reception, Mukwege, who has received death threats, declared: “In every raped woman, I see my wife. In every raped mother, I see my mother and in every raped child, my own children. We have spent too much time and energy fixing the consequences of violence. It is time to take care of the causes.”

Since the end of a five-year war in eastern Congo between 1998 and 2003, the region has remained volatile and riddled with armed groups competing for control over natural mineral resources.

Directed by Thierry Michel, a Belgian, the film will be screened in Washington and in New York on Nov. 27 at the opening night of the 23rd African Diaspora International Film Festival.

“I am not making accusations in my film,” protested Michel. “There is no commentary, just the testimony of victims and witnesses. I present the facts.

“Our aim was to provoke the debate and try to end the spiral of violence in the Congo. The courts in the DRC have already convicted some men, including army officers, so it is not as if this is a surprise or a secret or something that has not already been accepted as a fact.

“It is disappointing for everyone,” he said. “Many of these women have never told their stories. They need to tell their stories and be heard because then they can feel they exist.”

For ticket information to The Man Who Mends Women, visit www. Nyadiff.org.

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Category: Africa Briefs

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