Gynecologist Denis Mukwege, a leading voice against terror rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been awarded the 2008 Olof Palme Prize for his work to help women victims of rape and war crimes. Dr. Mukwege was an early fighter in the war against rape used as a weapon of terror in the DRC. Last year, I wrote here about his moving testimony before the US Congress.
Dr. Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital, located near Bukavu, the capitol of South Kivu province, when he saw how many of his patients were seriously injured or contracted diseases after being raped. Today, the facility receives about ten women rape victims each day, with more than a quarter of the patients requiring surgery after their ordeal.
The prize committee said that Dr. Mukwege
“serves peace, understanding and solidarity in a way worthy of imitation through the work with the women who are the most exposed victims of this conflict.”
All sides of the ongoing conflict in the DRC have used gang-rape and mutilation of women as a weapon of terror. Forty-five women report being raped every day in South Kivu province alone, according to a report issued last year by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. Estimates of non-reported rapes are triple that number.
Dr. Mukwege will receive his award of a diploma and $75,000 at a ceremony at the Swedish parliament on January 30. The Olof Palme award is aimed at promoting peace and disarmament and combating racism and xenophobia. It was created in memory of a popular Swedish prime minister who was gunned down by a lone attacker in February 1986, shortly after leaving a Stockholm cinema.