Abuse, mistreatment, murder – what has been done to many women in Congo by rebels is hard to put into words. Their stories in "Voices of Violence" are haunting, hard to bear and yet worth seeing.
They came at night, when Nakatya was asleep alone at home with her children, and forcibly broke into her hut. She was made submissive at gunpoint, tied up and dragged out into the open. With harsh gestures, the young woman in her hut underscores the unbearable memories that the viewer of "Voices of Violence" (from 10. March in the cinema) a lot to take in.
Targeted sexual violence against women
In the Congolese civil war, sexual violence against women was used deliberately. This was intended to destroy women's lives. To this day, many are afraid of rebel attacks if they venture out onto the streets after sunset.
Documentary filmmaker Claudia Schmid visited women in the villages of the Congolese province of South Kivu to talk to them about their brutal experiences – including cannibalism, forced killing of other prisoners or forced incest – and to trace the psychological and social consequences.
Women who have been raped by rebels are often disowned by their husbands as "Hutu women" and thus pushed into the social margins. With the social worker Therese Mema and the Catholic human rights initiative "Justice and Peace," there is now also help for self-help – supported, among others, by the Catholic aid organization missio from Germany.
Desire for justice
Nakatya is one of those who were willing to tell of their immense suffering. The protagonists hope that it will be heard and publicly acknowledged in this way. They finally want justice by punishing the perpetrators.
For her part, the director wants to find out how the structures of violence function. For this, she has chosen the form of a personal account and lets the women tell it from the first-person perspective by means of voice-over. She attributes women's powerlessness to the patriarchal gender relations that shape the country deep into its institutions.
Her film starts with the harrowing descriptions of the women, and in a second step takes a closer look at the position of the sexes. Two officers are interviewed about this, who also name government soldiers, priests and teachers as perpetrators. They point to the strict laws, but only a few women dare to make use of them.
Women are considered the property of their husbands
The filmmaker learns on the street how limited the female leeway is and which role models based on religion and tradition dominate. Women are considered the property of their husbands, to whom they must submit.
The great power of the haunting film, which is well worth watching, comes from the interviews. The director creates a protected visual space where the women can reveal their horrific memories. The focus is entirely on the women telling the story. Their brightly colored clothes make them stand out against the mostly brown walls or natural surroundings, but at the same time they are held in place by them.
The lives of the protagonists are reflected in this tension of slow rhythm and inner motion. Contrast this with the situation of women in a UN refugee camp. Attitudes of crowded plastic tents, torn tarpaulins, chunks of earth, and junky sanitary facilities refer pictorially to the lack of security. That's why one woman wants to conduct the interview only with a protective cloth over her head. Anyone who sees the film immediately understands this precautionary measure.