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Congolese Women Take Action Against 'Revenge Porn'

Compromising pictures and videos taken with cell phones constitute a new kind of cyber-criminality in Bas-Congo
Compromising pictures and videos taken with cell phones constitute a new kind of cyber-criminality in Bas-Congo
Paul Durand

MATADI — It’s one of the Internet revolution’s more twisted novelties. Men ready to do anything to get back at the girlfriend who left them or whom they suspect of cheating on them post naked photos or sex videos on social networks. And now, so-called “revenge porn” has also arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the northern town of Matadi, a young woman from the northern town of Matadi was victimized when her partner published a nude photo of her online. After creating a Facebook account in the name of his girlfriend without her knowledge, the man uploaded a photo of her that he took during sex. “He did it to punish her because he thought she’d been unfaithful,” a friend of the couple says.

But like others, the young woman filed a criminal complaint with the help of a local women’s group, and the man has been held for two months in a Matadi jail awaiting trial.

“Even if a woman has been unfaithful, she doesn’t deserve this,” says Annie Mbadu, an official with the group Women and Development. “How many men have never cheated on their girlfriend? By doing so, they disgrace and objectify all women.”

During a meeting last month at Matadi’s “Maison de la Femme” (a regional women’s center), local women spoke out about what one characterized as “cyber-criminality.”

“Uploading a nude photo online, even if it is an act of vengeance, is an offense and a sign of weakness. No woman deserves to be humiliated in such a way by a man,” one woman said. “The law must be severely enforced.”

Cherine Luzaisu, a lawyer and president of the Association for Woman Lawyers in Congo (AFEJUCO), says such violations can be considered as indecent assault, violation of human dignity or invasion of privacy, which are punishable by the Congolese penal code, bringing sentences of up to five years.

The necessity of being vigilant

With the spread of technology, couples increasingly photograph or videotape themselves in intimate situations. But when these relationships take a turn for the worse, these private moments all too often find their way onto social networks. “It’s a way for them to take revenge. These women must learn to be responsible,” one young man in Matadi says.

But Didienne Bunga, head of division of the Congolese Ministry of Gender, Child and Family, says such unauthorized sharing of images can cause irreparable damage.

“It’s cowardly. It’s a form of violence against women,” she says. “These women mustn’t remain silent. They must press charges.”

But the best way for women to avoid such situations is never to allow such images in the first place. “They should avoid having their picture taken in intimate situations,” Annie Mbadu warns. “You never know when the relationship may turn sour.”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Russia's Wartime Manipulation Of Energy Prices Could Doom Its Economy

A complex compensation mechanism for fuel companies, currency devaluation, increased demand due to the war, logistics disruptions, and stuttering production growth have combined to trigger price rises and deepening shortages in the Russian energy market.

Photograph of Novatek's gravity-based structure platform for production of liquefied natural gas, floating on a body of water.

Russia, Murmansk Region - July 21, 2023: A view of Novatek's gravity-based structure platform for production of liquefied natural gas.

Ekaterina Mereminskaya

In Russia, reports of gasoline and diesel shortages have been making headlines in the country for several months, raising concerns about energy supply. The situation escalated in September when a major diesel shortage hit annexed Crimea. Even before that, farmers in the southern regions of Russia had raised concerns regarding fuel shortages for their combines.

“We’ll have to stop the harvest! It will be a total catastrophe!” agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev had warned at the time. “We should temporarily halt the export of petroleum products now until we have stabilized the situation on the domestic market.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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As the crisis deepens, experts are highlighting the unintended consequences of government intervention in fuel pricing and distribution.

The Russian government has long sought to control the prices of essential commodities, including gasoline and diesel. These commodities are considered "signalling products", according to Sergei Vakulenko, an oil and gas expert and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. Entrepreneurs often interpret rising gasoline prices as a signal to adjust their pricing strategies, reasoning that if even gasoline, a staple, is becoming more expensive, they too should raise their prices.

The specter of the 2018 fuel crisis, where gasoline prices in Russia surged at twice the rate of other commodities, haunts the authorities. As a result, they implemented a mechanism to control these prices and ensure a steady supply. Known as the "fuel damper," this mechanism seeks to balance the profitability of selling fuel in both domestic and foreign markets.

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