This year saw a number of deplorable violations against the dignity of women and men through the use of rape as a weapon of war. The “Islamic State” continues to commit these atrocities against women and girls within their strategy to pursue their ideology and terrorize the population. In Myanmar, sexual violence is used as a tool to marginalize the Rohingya minority. The ongoing conflicts both in Syria and in Burundi have led to the use of sexual violence as a punishment for political opponents. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has experienced many years of civil war with extremely high levels of sexual violence and most recently risks falling into a downward spiral which could lead to even more victims. These cases represent only a few of the countries currently experiencing such atrocities.

Progress has been made

However, we should also recognize the progress that has been made. Accountability is becoming a higher priority: In March of this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former Congolese Vice-President and rebel leader, of sexual violence crimes under the principle of command responsibility. In November a former Bosnian Serb soldier, Krsto Dostic, was sentenced to ten years in prison by the State court in Sarajevo for his involvement in the perpetration of rape. In the on-going ICC case against Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, forced pregnancy and forced marriage are prosecuted for the time at the ICC.

Voices of survivors are being heard

The voices of survivors are also being heard. Recently, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded to Yazidi activists Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar. These women have demonstrated their strength and commitment to advocating for those who are still suffering at the hands of the “Islamic State.” Similarly, “Comfort Women” in South Korea, the Philipines and other countries continue to fight for justice and the acknowledgment of their suffering as a result of abuses committed by Japanese soldiers more than half a century ago. In Colombia, a peace deal reached earlier this year focuses on women rights and is the result of the loud voice of survivors of sexual violence.

Our inspiration to fight for justice

The tireless efforts of these survivors give us all inspiration to fight for justice and to put an end to the use of rape as a weapon of war. It is unacceptable that, in the 21st century, this type of violence is still being used and victims do not have sufficient access to care. Survivor rehabilitation has received much attention but still needs to be expanded to ensure all survivors have access to all services they are entitled to.

Together with Panzi in DRC, the Mukwege Foundation advocates for scaling up holistic survivor care, for ending impunity, and for having survivors’ voices heard to end rape as a weapon of war.

Thank you so much for you support in 2016. Lets make 2017 count!

We are extremely grateful for the support you have given us in our first year, and we count on you next year in order to continue the fight against rape as a weapon of war. Together with you, we can give a voice to survivors of sexual violence. Continue to follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

We wish you a peaceful 2017.

With sincere thanks, 

Esther Dingemans,  

Director of the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation.

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