DR CONGO: New Comic Book to help Fight Violence against Women


FRANCE, March 8, 2011 (CISA) –
A Congolese cartoonist is among 24 artists who have contributed to a new comic strip book to fight violence against women.
The new comic strip, launched ahead of the International Women’s Day in France on Monday March 7, 2011, is the work of 12 men and 12 women.
In the comic strip album, Congolese cartoonist Pat Masioni has produced a story that evokes the horrific violence against women in Central Africa and other parts of the continent.
Masioni depicts a character called Maya who undergoes verbal and physical abuse. The last box of his strip is black, to represent the death of dignity that Maya suffers.
“With her, I want to pay homage to all the anonymous women in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who are alive or dead, are  victims of the shameful violence that exists in the world,” Masioni states in his introduction.
The new French comic book is titled: En chemin elle rencontre..  (On the way, she met…). It is edited and published by Marie Moinard, director of the small publishing company Des ronds dans l’O, and a cartoonist herself.
The book looks at rape, verbal aggression, domestic cruelty and other kinds of violence and clearly shows the consequences for women. But it also outlines women’s legal rights, alongside the thought-provoking images.
The French publisher thought this would be a “perfect” medium for raising awareness among both young and old.
The launch brought together cartoonists, an outspoken French singer, a psychiatrist who treats victims of violence, and artists who support women’s rights.
“The book comes from the humanist conviction and the fierce belief that the incidents of violence must stop, and that equality between men and women must be respected,” Moinard said.
Known as bandes dessinées (drawn strip) in France, comic books enjoy a popularity that cuts across age, gender, class and skin colour, Moinard said. As such, the medium can be used to sensitize readers about serious and difficult issues.
The title of En chemin is drawn from a French children’s song that tells the story of a girl meeting four boys while out on a walk. Each of the boys touches a different part of her body, with the song implying that the girl enjoys the violation. A verse states that “men are pigs” but that “women like pigs.”
“This is a song that children sang at holiday camps,” said Muriel de Gaudemont, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International, France.
“I used to sing it myself, and it illustrates the mentality that women are somehow to blame for the violence that they suffer,” she said.
De Gaudemont told IPS that violence against women is one of the “greatest scandals” in the area of human rights.
“Everywhere in the world, women are too often the victims of humiliation, rape, mutilation, murder or lack of access to healthcare,” she stated.
One of the book’s sections is based on the lyrics of a disquieting song by the rising French singer Agnès Bihl, who gives voice to subjects often considered taboo.
Titled Touche pas à mon corps (Don’t touch my body), the song deals with incest. The story it tells is illustrated in red and black by artist Nathalie Ferlut, in which readers are made aware of the impact on the child.
At the launch of the comic strip book, Bihl performed the song in a way that touched the audience, both through the lyrics and her delivery. The “narrator” is a child begging the father she loves to stop what he is doing.
The 36-year-old Parisian singer told IPS that it was an honour for her to be part of the comic strip book project because the subject of violence against women and girls needed to be brought into the open.
“Children should know that incest is not normal. We need to make this subject less taboo. It is a terrible thing to experience incest, and it is also terrible not to be able to talk about it,” Bihl said.
She said that each time she performs the song; there are individuals who approach her afterwards to talk about their experiences. She told IPS that two children who had listened to the song recently revealed to their mother that they had been abused by their father.
“For people who have lived through this, I want them to know when they hear the song or read the bande dessinée that they are not alone. And for people who haven’t experienced incest, they should know that it could happen in their families,” Bihl said.

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