Congolese gynecological surgeon Denis Mukwege has won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded for his work treating thousands of women who have been victims of rape in his country.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in a statement that Mukwege would receive the $65,000 award for “his fight for protection especially of women.” Last year’s winner, Malala Yousafzai, the teen who was shot by the Taliban for advocating education for girls, received the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month.
Past winners of the prize, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, include the late South African leader Nelson Mandela and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
“In many armed conflicts around the world, rape is used as a weapon of war,” Schulz said in the statement. Mukwege, he said, “decided to help victims in his country” by “[treating] victims of sexual violence who have sustained serious injuries,” at his Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on the border with Rwanda.
According to a United Nations report earlier this year, more than 3,600 women were raped in the DRC in the four years from January 2010 to December 2013.
“Dr. Mukwege is known for his work in one of the most traumatized places in the world. In the hills above Bukavu, where for years there was little electricity or anesthetic, Dr. Mukwege has performed surgery on countless women, some a few steps away from death, who have reached his hospital.
“At the same time, he has campaigned relentlessly to shine a spotlight on the plight of Congolese women, even after an assassination attempt two years ago.
” ‘It’s not a women question; it’s a humanity question, and men have to take responsibility to end it,’ Dr. Mukwege said in an interview last year. ‘It’s not an Africa problem. In Bosnia, Syria, Liberia, Colombia, you have the same thing.’ ”