(New York, May 20, 2019) – Girls suffered sexual violence and other abuses when armed groups attacked hundreds of schools during the 2016-2017 Kasai conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) in a report released today. The violence affected all children, but girls were particularly harmed, used as “magical” forces that would ward off bullets despite being unarmed, and raped and forcibly “married” to troops.

The 76-page report, “‘All That I Have Lost’: Impact of Attacks on Education for Women and Girls in Kasai Central Province – Democratic Republic of Congo,” is based on over 55 interviews with female students, as well as principals and teachers from schools that were attacked in the region. The report documents previously unreported violence against female students, including militiamen raping female students and school staff when they attacked schools or when girls were fleeing an attack, or abducting girls from schools purportedly to become militia members but instead raping or forcing them to “marry” militia members. Others were recruited and forced to fight with the militia. Often, they were placed on the front lines armed only with a broom or kitchen utensil, because young girls were understood to provide magical protection to the whole unit. Many children are believed to have been killed by the Congolese armed forces, including many girls who were being used by armed groups as human shields.