The impact of conflict is devastating — and this devastation is further exacerbated where sexual violence is involved. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are used as a weapon of war in numerous conflicts worldwide to terrorise and destabilise entire populations.
Perpetrators systematically target civilians with coercive violence that includes gang rape, sexual slavery, exploitation, forced sterilisation/pregnancy/abortion/marriage and other atrocities directly or indirectly linked to conflict. Conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is a grave crime and a violation of international human rights that is punishable by international criminal law.
Survivors face a range of consequences from permanent physical injuries, to long-term, debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder, and from crippling social stigma to exclusion from legal redress or compensation. Moreover, rape during conflict reinforces gender inequalities and normalises sexual violence; even after a conflict has ended, the consequences go beyond individual traumatisation, and harm societies as a whole over generations.
Not only do survivors of such violence often have to deal with the consequences alone due to a lack of access to services, but they are too frequently actively silenced, by both their own communities and the world at large. Across the world today, the experiences of women and girl survivors–and also men and boys–are systematically denied. While the physical pain and consequences to the body may be hidden, the cascade of psychological, social, and economic effects on victims, their families, and communities is impossible to ignore.
Background information, key challenges & other resources
GSDRC 2011: pilot study of conflict-related sexual violence in 20 African countries
UN 2005: Sierra Leone truth commission on sexual violence, an ‘invisible war crime’
Summary: Conflict Related Sexual Violence Report of the United Nations Secretary-General, 2019