Democratic Republic of Congo: Forced marriages in Kinshasa, including prevalence, protection provided by civil society and the state, and recourse for women if the police refuse to register their complaint or pursue it (2010-October 2013) [COD104599.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Forced Marriages in Kinshasa

Information on forced marriages in Kinshasa was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. However, the following information may be useful.

In its 2012 report on early marriage, the United Nations Population Fund states that early marriage is common in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that, in Kinshasa, 18 percent of women 20 to 24 years old were married before they reached 18 years of age (UNPF 2012).

Citing a December 2010 investigation on violence against women in Kinshasa by a market research and opinion survey agency called The Experts (Les Experts), the Congolese newspaper La Prospérité states that five percent of people surveyed admitted to being a victim of forced marriage (La Prospérité 8 June 2011). According to the article, forced marriage is [translation] "very popular in poor socio-economic environments" (ibid.).

Gay Star News, a news website for the gay community (Gay Star News 15 Jan. 2012), states in a 26 July 2013 article on lesbians living in Kinshasa that the feminist Congolese organization Si Jeunesse Savait spoke with 100 lesbians in Kinshasa and discovered cases in which lesbians have been victims of forced marriages (ibid. 26 July 2013). Further information on these forces marriages could not be found by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Congolese newspaper Le Potentiel states in an 11 October 2012 article on International Day of the Girl (Journée internationale de la fille) and forced marriages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that [translation] "many girls try to flee a forced marriage by living on the streets." The article also states that 8,950 girls live on the streets in Kinshasa (Le Potentiel 11 Oct. 2012).

2. Legislation

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 published by the United States' Department of State (US), Congolese law prohibits forced marriage and applies a penalty of 12 years of forced labour and a fine of 92,500 Congolese francs [about C$104 (XE 2 Oct. 2013)] to parents who force their child to marry (US 19 Apr. 2013, 27, 32). The penalty doubles when the child is under 15 years old (ibid., 32). Country Reports 2012 also points out that there have been no reports of prosecutions for forced marriage in 2012 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. State Protection

Information on state protection provided to victims of forced marriages in Kinshasa and on recourse for women if the police refuse to register their complaint or pursue it could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. However, the following information may be useful.

Cited on the pan-African website Pambazuka News, the Menelik association-created in 2003, based in Kinshasa and in Cambridge, and involved especially in the areas of solidarity, human rights and gender equality (Menelik n.d.)-notes that victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo receive inadequate care and protection from the police and the justice system (Pambazuka News 2 May 2013). The Belgian news site Vif/L'Express also identifies the deficiencies of the police in this area (16 Nov. 2012).

4. Protection Provided by Civil Society

Information on protection provided by civil society to victims of forced marriages in Kinshasa could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. However, the following information may be useful.

The British office of the War Child International charity offers services to girls who live on the streets in Kinshasa, including a "night ambulance" and a "drop-in centre" (War Child n.d.; The Times of London 30 Nov. 2011). An article published on 16 November 2012 on the Le Vif/L'Express website states that the Women's Centre (Maison de la femme), [translation] "a reception and orientation centre," supports victims of sexual violence in Kinshasa.

For further information on forced marriages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, consult Response to Information Request COD104023.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Gay Star News. 26 July 2013. Valérie Bah. "Why Lesbians Are Staying Hidden in the Congo." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2013]

_____. 15 January 2012. Tris Reid-Smith. "About Gay Star News." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2013]

Menelik. N.d. "Qui sommes-nous?" [Accessed 4 Oct. 2013]

Pambazuka News. 2 May 2013. Theodore Menelik-Mfuni. "Menelik Education's Position on Violence Against Women and Girls in DRC." [Accessed 2 Oct. 2013]

Le Potentiel [Kinshasa]. 11 October 2012. "À l'occasion de la Journée internationale de la fille - Manuel Fontaine - 'Au pays, une jeune femme sur 10 de moins de 15 ans est actuellement mariée et près de la moitié des femmes de 20 à 49 ans sont mariées avant l'âge de 18 ans'." (Factiva)

La Prospérité [Kinshasa]. 8 June 2011. Laetitia Mbuyi. "Agence 'Experts: '31 % de Kinoises sont victimes de viol'." [Accessed 20 Sept. 2013]

The Times of London. 30 November 2011. "Charity Gives New Hope to Teenage Girls of Kinshasa's Squalid Streets." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2013]

United Nations (UN). 2012. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)."Child Marriage Country Profiles: Democratic Republic of the Congo." Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage. [Accessed 30 Sept. 2013]

United States (US). 19 April 2013. Department of State. "Democratic Republic of the Congo." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. [Accessed 30 Sept. 2013]

Le Vif/L'Express. 16 November 2012. Olivier Rogeau. "Kinshasa prend peur." (Factiva)

War Child International. N.d. "Democratic Republic of Congo." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2013]

XE. 2 October 2013. "Convertisseur de devises XE." [Accessed 2 Oct. 2013]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful: Association des femmes avocates de la République démocratique du Congo; Association des femmes magistrates congolaises; Association pour la promotion de la femme; Avocats sans frontières à Kinshasa; Comité National Femme et Développement; Réseau action femmes.

Internet sites, including: Agence congolaise de presse; Agence Experts; AllAfrica; American Bar Association; Association congolaise pour l'accès à la justice; Avocats sans frontières; City of Kinshasa; Congo Opportunities Media; Democratic Republic of the Congo – Ministère de l'Intérieur, Sécurité, Décentralisation et Affaires coutumières, Police nationale congolaise; Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit; ecoi.net; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme; Osez le féminisme; Radio Okapi; Réseau des associations congolaises des jeunes contre le VIH/sida; Si Jeunesse Savait; United Nations – High Commissioner for Human Rights, Integrated Regional Information Networks, Refworld, United Nations Children's Fund, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Women.