AT LEAST 400,000 women were raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo over a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, according to an American Journal of Public Health study that shows the problem is not confined to the restive east.
Based on a 2007 survey of women between the ages of 15 and 49, the study also estimates that more than 1.7 million Congolese women have been raped in their lifetime and at least three million more have been raped by an intimate partner.
"Not only is sexual violence more generalised than previously thought, but our findings suggest that future policies and programs should focus on abuse within families," the study said.
The country is recovering from more than a decade of war that began in the mid-1990s. Fighting continues in the mineral-rich east and rape has become a common tactic in the conflict.
A UN report found that few rapists are caught and those who are convicted often escape from prison.