Bringing Justice to the People – Dem Rep Congo
Dr Bilge Sahin has recently finished her PhD in the Department of Development Studies and is now a lecturer at Abant Izzet Baysal University, Turkey. Bilge’s thesis examines international assistance to DR Congo’s judiciary. While not specifically about humanitarian action, Bilge’s thesis places international intervention in context by investigating its impact on sexual violence crimes and gender power relations in eastern Congo.
The thesis is now in SOAS library, and here is an abstract.
BRINGING JUSTICE TO THE PEOPLE Examining International Assistance to the DR Congo’s Judiciary and Its Impacts on Sexual Violence Crimes and Gender Power Relations in North Kivu
While sexual violence crimes in conflict elicited little response from the international community until the last decade of the 20th century, the 21st century commenced with a number of resolutions being passed by the United Nations aiming to challenge these crimes. The attention given to sexual violence crimes in conflict specifically in the DRC have led to the country being labelled ‘the rape capital of the world’. The international community has assumed a number of roles in this regard as countries of the Global North have funded numerous projects that aim to eradicate these crimes in the DRC. These projects are dominated by the idea that the implementation of the rule of law can bring justice to Congolese women by strengthening the Congolese legal system, promoting access to justice for survivors, and enhancing prosecution of perpetrators through mobile hearings which are designed to reach out to survivors in remote areas where many of the crimes are committed.
This thesis aims to explore the impact of international assistance on challenging sexual violence crimes in conflict in the eastern DRC. In this regard, firstly, a broad understanding of the notion of violence is provided by gendering Slavoj Žižek’s theory of violence which claims that sexual violence crimes are more than the physical acts of violence as they are an expression of unequal gender power relations. The thesis then explores whether international assistance challenging sexual violence crimes through the rule of law employ these deeper understandings of violence. The main argument is that in order to end sexual violence crimes, violence embedded in gender power relations needs to be challenged in addition to the visible acts of violence. Hence, this thesis will explore whether changes in gender power relations or a transformation of gender performativity is affected by international assistance.