Dr. Denis Mukwege is a gynecological surgeon who founded and currently serves as the Medical Director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, a city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where he specializes in the treatment of women who have been gang-raped by rebel forces. Collectively, Dr. Mukwege and the staff at his hospital have treated more than 46,000 survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence since the hospital’s founding in 1999 and have partnered with Physicians for Human Rights to further their mission.
As Jill Biden wrote in her Time 100 profile of Dr. Mukwege, “he is guided by the Hippocratic oath and an indomitable commitment to justice on his own mission to save th[o]se [affected] communities one woman at a time.” Dr. Mukwege also serves on the advisory committee for the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. He has been the recipient of numerous awards worldwide for his advocacy against sexual violence as a weapon of war and for his outstanding services to survivors of rape.
Speaking before the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2012, Dr. Mukwege publicly denounced the DRC’s ongoing conflict and called for those responsible to be brought to justice. Weeks later, “he narrowly escaped death when five gunmen in civilian clothes attacked his home in Bukavu.” The traumatic incident prompted him and his family to leave the country for a while, afraid for their safety, although they eventually returned in January 2013 so that Dr. Mukwege could continue his work at Panzi Hospital.
He has previously been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and in 2014 was awarded the Sarkhov Prize for Freedom of Thought, bestowed by the European Parliament – their highest honor in recognition of human rights achievements, for his medical work as well as his “campaign to end the use of mass rape as a weapon of war.” Although the war in the DRC is technically over, attacks against civilians, including gang rapes, continue in the eastern part of the country, and Dr. Mukwege’s steadfastness to his work has made him a fortifying figure and for some a beacon of hope. Some even hope that Dr. Mukwege will one day run for president.