Memories of the bravest doctor in the world

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Memoirs of the world’s bravest doctor: Nobel Peace Prize winner who treats up to 3,000 rape victims a year calls in his autobiography for a world where women grow up without fear of violence

  • By the mid-1990s, the deadly conflict in Rwanda had spilled over into the Congo
  • Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize dr. Denis Mukwege treated 3,000 rape victims a year
  • The Power of Woman wrote a partial autobiography and a partial call to action










THE POWER OF WOMEN

author dr. Denis Mukwege (Short books £ 20, 320 pages)

Denis Mukwege had just finished surgery when his anesthesiologist came in and told him he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. As he walked through the cheering, singing crowd that had gathered in front of the hospital, he went home, accompanied by armed guards who watched over him night and day.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, is the richest country in the world with natural resources such as gold, copper, diamonds and coffee. But after decades of corruption and conflict, it is one of the poorest places on the planet. It is also one of the most dangerous countries for childbirth.

Dr Denis Mukwege (pictured), who has treated thousands of rape victims in Congo, has partly written an autobiography and partly a call to action

Dr. Mukwege, the son of a Protestant pastor, decided in his 20s to become a gynecologist and dedicate himself to safer childbirth for women in his country. Soon, however, treating pregnant women would remove what had become its grim specialty: treating rape victims.

By the mid-1990s, the deadly conflict in neighboring Rwanda spilled over into the Congo and the country became known as the “world capital of rape”. The conflict continues, and as in Europe during World War II and in Bosnia in the 1990s, mass rape is a terribly effective way for soldiers to terrorize and control the population.

Soon dr. Mukwege treated 3,000 rape victims a year, many of whom were also tortured or shot in the genitals by attackers and needed his skills in reconstructive surgery.

Despite the trauma, the women showed tremendous strength. ‘I drew my strength from them,’ he writes. He has set up counseling services, safe havens and aftercare for rape victims, and an international campaign to raise awareness of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

In addition to the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad, his work has earned him the hatred of the DRC government. This brave man, still working in the Congo, has survived several assassination attempts, so they need bodyguards.

THE POWER OF WOMEN dr.  Denis Mukwege (short books £ 20, 320 pages)

THE POWER OF WOMEN dr. Denis Mukwege (short books £ 20, 320 pages)

Why do men rape? Dr. Mukwege, a father of three daughters, believes rape prosecutions are so rarely successful that even in countries with well-funded legal systems, they have been almost decriminalized.

Whether the rapist is a Hollywood mogul or a Congolese soldier, there are men who will – if they think they can – use their power for their own sexual pleasure.

It is shocking that a fifth of Britons report experiencing some form of sexual assault.

If things change, parents have a key role to play in educating their sons. ‘How many fathers sit down and actually talk to their sons about the nature of consent?’ asks dr. Mukwege. ‘We forget or neglect, often out of rudeness or embarrassment, to talk about sex.’

The Power of Women – partly an autobiography, partly a call to action – is not an easy book to read, but Denis Mukwege’s quiet courage and dedication to his patients are moving and inspiring.

His dream is of a world where “girls born in our maternity ward celebrate just like boys and in which women grow up without fear of violence”.

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