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Friday 18 October 2019

Nobel peace prize winners demand action against sex abuse

Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad were speaking at a news conference.

Nadia Murad, left, and Dr Denis Mukwege, winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (Heiko Junge/NTB scanpix via AP)
Nadia Murad, left, and Dr Denis Mukwege, winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (Heiko Junge/NTB scanpix via AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

One of the winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has said the attention the award has drawn to sexual violence against women in war zones must be followed by action against the abuses.

Dr Denis Mukwege was speaking at a news conference together with Nadia Murad, from Iraq, who is sharing the nine million Swedish krona (£781,358) prize.

Dr Mukwege was honoured for his work helping sexually abused women at the hospital he founded in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

His co-winner Ms Murad, who is a Yazidi, was recognised for her advocacy for sex abuse victims after being kidnapped and raped by Islamic State (IS) militants.

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Nadia Murad, left, and Dr Denis Mukwege (Heiko Junge/NTB scanpix/AP)

“What we see during armed conflicts is that women’s bodies become battlefields and this cannot be acceptable during our time,” the doctor said.

“We cannot only denounce it, we now need to act.”

Ms Murad, 25, was one of an estimated 3,000 girls and women from Iraq’s Yazidi minority group who were kidnapped in 2014 by IS militants and sold into sexual slavery.

She was raped, beaten and tortured before managing to escape three months later.

We need to realise that any woman who is a victim of sexual violence within her own country - such women should be allowed treatment and it's not only medical treatment, also psychological treatment, judicial treatment Dr Denis Mukwege

After getting treatment in Germany, she chose to speak to the world about the horrors faced by Yazidi women, despite the stigma in her culture surrounding rape.

She said it was difficult “for a girl, a woman, to rise up to say that these atrocities have happened”.

Dr Mukwege, a 63-year-old surgeon, founded a hospital in the city of Bukavu and over the past 20 years has treated countless women who have been raped amid fighting between armed groups seeking to control some of the central African nation’s vast mineral wealth.

He expressed concerns that new violence could be on the horizon as Congo holds a general election this month.

“We think the conflict might blow up around this electoral period and women and children are always the first victims of such conflicts,” he said.

Along with preventing sexual violence, more effort was needed to attend to victims, Dr Mukwege said.

“We need to realise that any woman who is a victim of sexual violence within her own country — such women should be allowed treatment and it’s not only medical treatment, also psychological treatment, judicial treatment,” he said.

Ms Murad said the psychological burden of her ordeal and her subsequent work was heavy.

“I don’t want to live in fear. For the last four years I have been in Germany, in a safe place, but yet I’m living frightfully,” she said.

“I’m scared that these people will not just attack me or have an impact on me, but with anybody else.”

Ms Murad and Dr Mukwege will receive their prize on Monday at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital.

The winners of Nobel prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry and economics will be awarded their prizes on Monday in Stockholm.

No Nobel literature winner was named this year due to turmoil in the Swedish Academy, which chooses the literature winners.

PA Media

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