New DR Congo centre for rape victims opens

image captionMany women were employed to build the centre

A new centre has opened designed to help some of the thousands of people who have been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN-funded City of Joy is intended to help women become activists and community leaders.

DR Congo has been called the "rape capital of the world" because of the high incidence of sexual abuse during its long conflict.

Both rebels and government troops have been accused of mass rapes.

A local army commander was arrested last month following allegations that he had led the gang rape of at least 50 women in the town of Fizi.

In August 2010, rebel forces were accused of raping hundreds of women, girls, men and boys around the town of Luvungi.

The UN recorded some 11,000 rapes in 2010 - the true figure is believed to be much higher.

The new $1.5m (£1m) centre, funded by the UN children's agency Unicef, is to be opened by UN special envoy on sexual violence Margot Wallstrom in the eastern city of Bukavu.

US author Eve Ensler, who wrote the best-selling book and play The Vagina Monologues, helped set up the V-Day movement against sexual violence, which will manage the City of Joy.

"The whole idea is to create a place where women who have been through gender violence, who have survived, and are often the strongest women, become the next leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo," she told the BBC.

She said it was not a hospital but said people will be given therapy, as well as literacy training, sexual education and advocacy training.

Many women have been employed to build the centre.

About 90 victims of sexual assault at a time will spend between four and six months in nine communal houses.

They will then return to their communities to spread the knowledge they acquired in the centre, including internet use and radio broadcasting.

The BBC's Thomas Hubert in DR Congo says the promoters of the project are confident that it will change the role of women, and the level of violence directed against them.

But our reporter says other specialists in Bukavu have questioned the use of such large resources to help just 200 rape victims a year.

Around the BBC

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.