Forms of sexual violence Sexual violence as a weapon of war
The law
Where does it happen?
Forms of sexual violence
Causes
Consequences


Conflict-related sexual violence takes many different forms

It 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 sterilisation,
  • 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.


“Violations of a sexual nature have long been a feature in times of conflict and peace. These violations are deeply rooted in every society, a result of patriarchal domination and lasting discrimination, and exacerbated by structural instabilities such as conflict. Understood broadly, the concept of “sexual violence” encompasses all violations of sexual autonomy and sexual integrity. It is often characterised by humiliation, domination, and destruction.”

Preamble of Civil Society Declaration on Sexual Violence

Download the Civil Society Declaration on Sexual Violence

Call It What It Is Campaign


The Mukwege Foundation is proud to be part of Call It What Is campaign initiated by Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.

The Call It What It Is campaign is a global initiative calling on a collective strength of civil society to give survivors of sexual violence in conflict, a voice in shaping contemporary, victim-centric and contextually relevant guidance to international criminal law practitioners on what makes violence ‘sexual.’

To read more about the Call it what it is campaign

“As the women from SEMA, the power of us being and working
together has made us unite in the idea that we don’t only want to end this reality, but to really holistically work towards an education and elimination of this male-driven urge of aggression in our consciousness in all communities; and that is the power of us gathering together as survivors.”

member of the SEMA network from South Sudan

Dr Denis Mukwege

Dr Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynaecologist and human rights activist from east DRC. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his global efforts to end the use of rape as a weapon of war. Dr Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital and Foundation, and has become one of the world’s leading specialists on treating survivors of wartime sexual violence.

More about Dr Denis Mukwege
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