Time for Action to End Sexual Violence Against Women in Conflict

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Nobel Womens Initiative

“It is more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict.” Patrick Cammaert (2008, former Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo [MONUC])

Sexual violence in conflict is not a new phenomenon. The saying goes that “rape is as old as war itself” and women have had the battlefield played out on their bodies for centuries around the world. But the wars in Bosnia–Herzegovina and Rwanda in the 1990s were a turning point. These conflicts brought about the term “rape as a weapon of war” as rape was carried out systematically, and was strategically used as a war tactic.

Horrendous accounts of atrocities were documented and reported, and survivors spoke out about their experiences of gang rape, rape camps, rape slavery and forced pregnancy. The accounts not only fuelled global outrage and condemnation, but also spurred the international community to define the issue of sexual violence in conflict as a serious threat to peace and security.

Activists and advocates around the world have worked tirelessly in the last two decades to put an end to rape as a weapon of war and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators. Their efforts have resulted in United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions to prevent the use of wartime rape, local and national campaigns to end violence against women, and support for survivors and their families.

While these efforts have certainly helped to raise awareness about the severity and impact of sexual violence in conflict, the level of violence against women is by no means abating. Reports continue to surface with horrendous statistics and stories of women's realities in conflict regions throughout the world. As recent reports from places such as Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burma demonstrate, that reality is too true for too many women in this world. Clearly, more coordinated and targeted action is needed to put an end to rape as a weapon of war.

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Nobel Womens Initiative Time to End Sexual Violence in Conflict