Rape is “fundamental in destroying communities,” explains Marcus Bleasdale, a photographer who has spent years documenting brutalities within the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the slideshow below, he narrates a stream of images that capture the bleak lives of women who have been raped in the region. His photographs, compiled in the book “The Rape of a Nation” (2009), chronicle a dire and remote world that is all too easily ignored. They are also quite remarkable to look at.
As this excellent article in this week’s Economist makes plain, rape is being used systematically as a weapon of war throughout the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, where most (but not all) of war-time rape takes place, women are the glue of society, observes Mr Bleasdale. They nurture and educate the children, they plant the crops and oversee their harvest; most of the work that takes place in an African village is done by women. But when they are raped, as hundreds are every day in the war-torn regions, these women and girls are tossed out of their homes with nothing but their shame. Most are too busy scrambling for food to seek medical help, which they can hardly afford anyway. (In a feat of alchemy, Lynn Nottage managed to turn this subject into a fine play with "Ruined", for which she duly won a Pulitzer.)
Mr Bleasdale has done his subjects a service in these arresting photographs. In the interview below, he talks about the challenges of conveying the horrors of the violence while also protecting the identity of these girls and women.