In a move that will draw a collective cheer from thousands of women whose lives have been destroyed by brutal sexual violence, the European Parliament announced that Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege won the 2014 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Human Rights Watch analyst Anneke Van Woudenberg writes:
Dr. Mukwege, who specializes in gynecology, has been on the frontlines of the fight against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has treated countless victims of sexual violence in his hospital in Bukavu, eastern Congo. He has been threatened, his family has been attacked, yet he continues the arduous task of mending the bodies of women and girls ravaged by brutal rape. He does it with kindness, grace and compassion….Sexual violence in Congo is at epidemic proportions. There are no exact statistics, since collecting data in a war zone is exceedingly difficult, but various studies confirm the figure is in the hundreds of thousands.
The $65,000 award was established in 1988 in honor of the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, the New York Times writes:
Previous winners include Nelson Mandela; Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general; and Malala Yousafzai, one of the recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, for which Dr. Mukwege was a front-runner.
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said in a statement on Tuesday that Dr. Mukwege, 59,` was chosen “for his fight for protection, especially of women.” The Congolese physician will be invited to Strasbourg, France, to receive the award on Nov. 26, the statement said.
Mukwege runs another hospital in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province, U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin told the National Endowment for Democracy.
“It receives about 10 new rape cases a day, every day. And those are only the tip of the iceberg, since most rape survivors never seek treatment,” he said addressing a conference on Voices from the Congo: The Road Ahead, held at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum:
The victims range in age from 2 to 80 years old. Dr. Mukwege says they arrive “broken, waiting for death, hiding their faces.” In a dozen years, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have repaired more than 20,000 of these women and girls. Their work is supported in part by USAID. Dr. Mukwege is sometimes mentioned – deservedly – as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. On his white coat is a badge given to him from a Jewish organization. It is a cry against indifference. It says, “Don’t stand idly by.”
The endowment has also made a grant to Films de Passarelles to produce a documentary about Dr. Mukwege’s work (see above). It is nearing completion.