With Dozens of arrests and public trials: Kinshasa the capital of the DR Congo is currently in the midst of a massive operation against prostitution of minors, against young girls not well dressed, commonly known as “Ujana” and accused of indecent assault.
When launching the operation, the Congolese police promised to arrest “Ujana” under 18 years of age as well as “any adult” in their company in bars or hotels. The same fate is reserved for “bar owners who accept minors,” according to the authorities.
But the campaign is provoking the anger of lawyers and the families of these girls who are denouncing abuses.
“The girls here are accused of public outrage against good morals. But we must demonstrate how this offence can be achieved,” said Gauthier Nsopambu, lawyer.
“My daughter went to a party. Then I learnt that she was arrested. Let my daughter be left alone. She went for a party. She didn’t go for prostitution, she went for a birthday party. And they arrested her,” said Elisa Ngani, mother of one of the accused.
On Thursday afternoon, 29 young girls aged 17 to 22 years according to their lawyers appeared before a court sitting in public. The authorities say they want to defend fundamental and African values against young people who fall into the depravity of morals.
Lawyers allow the curious passers-by to witness the trial, even when the president of the court called the accused by their first and last names.
Parents were also allowed to attend this “fairground” hearing outside the courtroom.
Visibly tired after five days in detention, the young girls wait under the sun sitting on the ground among their lawyers before standing in front of the court table.
Crying, one of them doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening to her. Another one fainted.
“Is it an offence to dress and dance in a nightclub?“pleads Gauthier Nsopambu.
On social media, police officers have been accused of overzealousness and abuse.
“We oppose the use of police brutality to recover underage girls from bars and nightclubs as well as the illegal arrest and detention of underage girls,” said lawyer and human rights defender Georges Kapiamba.
Kapiamba asked the Governor of Kinshasa to “suspend” the operation “pending the accompanying measures that they will propose to him”.
The lasting solution will not come from police operations but rather from improving the social conditions of parents and young people…“pleads MP Patick Muyaya.
In Super-Lemba crossroads, the court is yet to rendered its verdict. In two other courts, dozens of girls were reportedly released because they were in fact over 18 years old.