Sexual violence as a weapon of war is considered a war crime, a crime against humanity, and can amount to genocide. In international law, and in the national laws in many countries, there is legislation recognising crimes of sexual violence in conflict, yet perpetrators of these crimes largely go unpunished, and judicial processes do not meet survivors’ needs.
Despite the adoption of several resolutions by the UN Security Council, the international community is not meeting its commitment to prevent and stop the violence, and to ensure that perpetrators are held to account. The international response to conflict-related sexual violence in conflict lacks the ambition and the success we have seen in other fields of civilian protection.
To change this situation, we advocate for an end to the complicit silence and tolerance of sexual violence crimes committed in conflict, pushing for changes in policy and behaviour to end impunity, and tackling the obstacles to justice that allow perpetrators to avoid facing the consequences of their actions.
We bring like-minded governments and organisations together to inspire joint action, for example training judicial and law enforcement actors in survivor-centred procedures, increasing survivors access to justice by raising awareness of their rights, providing legal aid and financial support, and addressing possible repercussions, advocating for perpetrators to be held accountable, and seeking innovative solutions at the local and national level that are capable of providing a sense of justice to survivors.
Reparations are an effective tool to provide justice and support survivors and communities. The use of sexual violence in wars not only leaves individuals with lifelong scars, but also spreads diseases, destroys family ties and harms societies as a whole over generations.
In many countries, survivors of wartime cannot rebuild their lives and contribute fully to society because of the lack of justice and recognition of the crimes they suffered, and the stigma they face.
This is where reparations play a key role: by aiming to help repair the harm caused by gross human rights violations, reparations are at the core of survivors’ demands to regain a life of dignity, respect and equality.
“Reparations” is a collective term encompassing the recognition of, and compensation for, the harm caused by gross human rights violations. According to international law, when someone is a victim of a serious crime such as rape, they are entitled to receive reparations to compensate for the harms suffered.
The international community acknowledges that reparations are an important tool to overcome the social stigma that survivors of sexual violence often face. However, reparations are not universally awarded and implemented. In many countries where sexual violence has been used, victims don’t have access to courts and are excluded from justice and reparations processes.
Survivors have made unequivocal calls for reparations, and other forms of redress, to be a priority for the international community. Together with SEMA members, Dr Mukwege and Nadia’s Initiative, we have worked to establish a new initiative, the Global Survivors Fund. The Fund is an innovative mechanism, the mission of which is to ensure survivors of conflict-related sexual violence have access to reparations, and other forms of redress, globally.