The civilised Self and the barbaric Other: ex-rebels making sense of sexual violence in the DR Congo
This article addresses discourses on gender and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Based on discussions with 101 ex-combatants, we examine how former FDLR members make sense of sexual violence by studying prevailing gendered images of Self and Other. This analysis of potential perpetrators’ mindset is part of the puzzle to find preventive measures. The findings demonstrate that ex-combatants attribute overwhelming power to biological ‘givens’ such as ‘urges’, ‘basic needs’ and ‘domination’ in their interpretation of sexuality. They also differentiate themselves from out-groups – enemy fighters and other nationals, especially Congolese – by attributing the latter with lower degrees of restraint. These insights demonstrate that a process of Othering is at work at the intersection of sex-gender-nation within the Congolese warscape, which complicates existing knowledge of sexual violence. The findings also suggest that the theoretical understanding of the phenomenon of sexual violence in war needs to place the notion of intersectionality central stage.
(Photo credit: UN Photo /Loey Felipe)