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Congo: A neglected region with forgotten victims

LGBTI people face tremendous violence and discrimination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a sprawling country of more than 100 million people in the heart of central Africa. Although same-sex intimacy is not illegal in the country, attitudes toward homosexuality are often very hostile.

In this article, longtime activist Jeremie Safari, the executive director of the LGBTI human rights advocacy organization Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko, relates the stories of several queer people whom his organization has helped after they suffered brutal violence and police indifference.

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* All names in this story have been altered to protect the LGBTQ subjects’ safety.

South Kivu, including its island of Idjwi, shown here, is a region of the Great Lakes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo courtesy of @Maheho Mwamba James)

South Kivu, including its island of Idjwi, shown here, is a region of the Great Lakes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo courtesy of @Maheho Mwamba James)

Trans woman and her partner survive home invasion and rape

Mercedes* is a trans woman activist who lived in very humble conditions in Uvira, a city of 600,000 people on Lake Kivu.

Sidney suffered severe injuries during a LGBTphobic attack. Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko is seeking a safe place to relocate them.

Sidney suffered severe injuries during a LGBTphobic attack. Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko is seeking a safe place to relocate them.

In September 2022, she was arrested in Bukavu as a sex worker by crooked police officers. Unable to pay a bribe, she was sent to prison where she was raped by fellow inmates

When she was released from prison in November, she met and became involved with Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko, where she discovered that both she and her partner, Sidney*, were HIV-positive during a rapid test.

Afterwards, far from giving up, Mercedes became a beneficiary of a microcredit with the help of an American philanthropic foundation. This was a new beginning in her life, and in December, she became a vendor of a variety of food products along a busy street.

However, in the early evening of December 15, Mercedes’ and Sidney’s lives came close to tragedy when six thugs broke down the door of their home and violently beat them, telling them to leave Uvira as soon as possible.

Injured and having found refuge in Bukavu with our team, we are looking for a permanent solution to relocate this couple.

Lesbian couple beaten for promoting homosexuality

On December 12 in Walungu, a town of 60,000 inhabitants, a lesbian couple, Evita* and Carmen*, were targeted at their home, accused of wanting to implant homosexuality in the region.

Evita was seriously injured, raped and threatened with death by five men, before being hospitalized for several days. The marital home was also burgled and stripped of all its valuable goods: TV, radio. But unfortunately, things did not stop there.

The day after, the same men appeared and attacked Carmen, who survived and had to find refuge in Bukavu, where our organization supports her and her companion who joined her.

Justice only for some in the eastern DRC

What all these cases have in common is that the victims do not file a complaint because of the cost of the judicial process in the DRC. In fact, if one does not want the complaint to be closed, one must always be able to afford a lawyer here. But only a tiny minority of the population can afford one.

LGBTI victims of crime also suffer from a lack of interest in the violence committed against LGBTI persons in the eastern DRC. Sometimes it seems as if all the country’s attention is focused on its capital, bustling Kinshasa. Yet social networks attest that there is no shortage of LGBT-phobic violence here.


You can support Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko by making a donation here.

Related articles:

Source: African Human Rights Media Network member Erasing 76 Crimes.


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