Vaginas Are Victorious in Lubumbashi Court
With Help from Equality Now, Congolese Women's Rights Group Wins the Right to Produce "The Vagina Monologues" for V-Day in Lubumbashi
NEW YORK, July 18, 2002: Yesterday was a day of victory for Irene Martine, Director of the Center of Hope for Girls and Women (CEFF) - an NGO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) working to end violence against women and to promote the rights of women and girls in the DRC.
Arrested at the instigation of the Mayor of Lubumbashi for staging a V-Day benefit production of "The Vagina Monologues" in April, Ms. Martine was charged with: (i) insubordination; (ii) pornography and the incitement of minors to debauchery; (iii) incitement of girls and women to rebellion; and (iv) importation of Western ideas.
She was detained for two weeks. Women and girls who came to demonstrate on her behalf were themselves arrested as they were singing songs of protest and also detained.
Equality Now was alerted by V-Day to the plight of Ms. Martine, and through its LAW (Lawyers Alliance for Women) Project--an initiative to promote equality for women through law--encouraged Ms. Martine to challenge the charges against her. The LAW Project also secured funding to enable Ms. Martine to hire a lawyer, who convinced the court to summon the Mayor to explain his actions.
At a hearing on July 10th, Ms. Martine's lawyer cross-examined the Mayor, disputing each of the charges as either unsubstantiated or not criminal in nature. He pointed out, for example, that the Mayor himself was wearing a suit that was "100% importation of western mentalities."
Several thousand women and girls reportedly came to court to support Ms. Martine, and the crowd in the courthouse booed the Mayor of Lubumbashi when he allegedly stated that Ms. Martine's attempt to perform the Vagina Monologues was an attempt "to destroy culture and families."
The court found in favor of Ms. Martine, and imposed a heavy fine or 6 months imprisonment on the Mayor, who apologized, reportedly stating, "I am not only apologizing to Madam Irene, her team and to the court, but my apology goes to all Congolese women and to all women on this earth."
Equality Now and V-Day welcome the ruling, which is a great success for Ms. Martine, CEFF, V-Day and all women and girls in the DRC.
Equality Now is an international human rights organization working to protect women's rights.
V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.
Alia Levine, Equality Now
Susan Celia Swan, V-Day