"Women's bodies have become a true battlefield and rape is being used as a weapon of war"
Winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize in 2014, Dr. Denis Mukwege is a Congolese gynecologist who founded and works in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu (Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC) which specializes in the surgical treatment of women who have been victims of rape during conflict. Mukwege has become the world's leading expert on how to repair the internal physical damage caused by gang rape. Besides his work as a physician Mukwege also defends human rights and seeks to raise global awareness on the issue of sexual violence in DRC.
When Denis Mukwege founded his clinic in Panzi in 1999, he thought he would dedicate himself to traditional obstetrics activities: births and caesarean sections. "When I was in France, I had never seen a woman die giving life, and I thought I could be of some help in my home country, where these things happen on a daily basis, by offering better delivery conditions". The reality appeared to be way more horrific. "My first patients were women whose entire reproductive system had been shattered by gunshot" Mukwege was totally bewildered: "I never, never would have imagined this".
Since then, more than 40,000 women have been treated in Dr. Mukwege's clinic, which gives an idea of the unprecedented scale of the tragedy.
Rape as a Weapon of War
"Women's bodies have become a true battlefield and rape is being used as a weapon of war" said Mukwege in November last year when accepting the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. "In every raped woman, I see my wife. In every raped mother, I see my mother and in every raped child, my own children" he continued. " We have spent too much time and energy fixing the consequences of violence. It is time to take care of the causes".
A new film by Belgian filmmaker Thierry Michel, The Man Who Mends Women – The Wrath of Hippocrates documents Mukwege's efforts to restore these women's shattered lives. Michel's Movie not only follows Mukwege's and the Panzi Hospital team's endeavor to fix the physical and psychological injuries of rape victims, but it also denounces the routine use of sexual violence by armed forces and militia groups against women in eastern DRC, as well as the impunity with which perpetrators destroy lives.