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Congo's Hell for Girls

Congolese witches against rape

Sexual harassment and abuse are a common occurrence in Congo. Girls face it daily on the streets, from their contemporaries, relatives, and friends. Abuse is not seen as a crime itself, and when it has gone too far, the victim is blamed. Congo has no support system for victims of sexual abuse; police and authorities can’t do much about it, either. With no official measures to stop the violence, people seek alternatives.

To make girls look less feminine, parents in Congo often take them to witches and healers. They expect sorcery to reduce breast growth, protecting their daughters from aggressive male attention. Rituals include slapping girls’ breasts with a fufu stick and cutting them with a razor blade.

Feminist activists in Congo see the solution in sexual education for boys and changing culture, which tolerates violence. However, they haven’t had much luck defeating the superstitions.

What does it feel like to be a girl in Congo — caught between being threatened with rape and enduring questionable and painful rituals?