Forms of wartime sexual violence

Wartime sexual violence takes many different forms and is used against women and girls, but also against men and boys by armed forces, rebel groups and terrorist organisations.

Rape and other forms of sexual violence occur before, during and after conflict. The crimes are committed against women, men, girls or boys.

Under international law and in the work of the UN, eight different forms of conflict-related sexual violence are distinguished:

  • rape
  • sexual slavery,
  • prostitution,
  • forced pregnancy,
  • forced abortion,
  • enforced sterilization,
  • forced marriage
  • and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity.
  • Moreover, conflict-related sexual violence can be an aspect of other crimes, such as human trafficking, when committed during war and for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

According to the UN, the link of sexual violence crimes to a conflict can be evident in the profile of the perpetrators, when they are members of an army, terrorist or rebel group; in the profile of the victims, when they are targeted because of their political, ethnic or religious affiliation; or by the circumstances in which sexual violence occurs, for example the collapse of the state.