Sexual violence against women in armed conflict is a crime against humanity, a war crime, and an unacceptable – but, unfortunately, effective – weapon of war. Raping, sexually assaulting and mutilating, forcibly impregnating and infecting with HIV/AIDS the wives, daughters and mothers of the “enemy” not only have terrible physical and psychological effects on the victims themselves, but are capable of disrupting, if not destroying, whole communities.
It has taken centuries for sexual violence against women in armed conflict to be outlawed. It was not until 2008 that the international community, via United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820 on women, peace and security, recognised that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, and a constitutive act with respect to genocide.
However, sexual violence against women in armed conflict is unfortunately still common – it was a constitutive feature of the Balkan wars little more than a decade ago. Today, the main victims of this crime are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (especially in Kivu) and in Sudan (especially in Darfur). To this day, thousands of victims are denied access to justice, reparation and redress. The lives of the victims remain blighted in many ways while the perpetrators enjoy almost complete impunity for their crimes.