Sexual harassment
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International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict


On International Day, June 19th, we aim for a world without sexual violence in conflict, ensuring everyone’s dignity and safety. “Wartime sexual violence is one of history’s greatest silences and one of today’s most extreme atrocities…It is perhaps more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.” [1]

Throughout history, rape has been used in conflicts as a tool of psychological warfare to punish, intimidate, and devastate entire communities. According to Inge Skjelsbæk, a professor at PRIO, the conversation has evolved from viewing rape as something that “inevitably happens in war because men are men,” to acknowledging that “rape is a clear war strategy and a war crime that threatens international peace and security.”[2]

Sexual Violence was condemned as a tactic of war and an impediment to peacebuilding in 2008 by the UN Security Council. Unfortunately, rape continues to be widespread and prevalent in armed conflicts, situations of violence, and detention settings. It manifests in diverse contexts and results in severe humanitarian consequences. [3]

The data available reveal alarming rates of rape during and after conflicts: during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, between 250,000 and 500,000 women and girls were raped; over 60,000 were raped in the Sierra Leone civil war; between 20,000 and 50,000 in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1996. Although these figures are shocking, they likely represent serious underestimates, as the majority of victims do not report these crimes to authorities. [1]

Sexual violence amidst armed conflict manifests through various motives and scenarios. It may be wielded as a tool of warfare strategy, as a tacitly condoned practice, or opportunistically driven by personal motivations. [3]

Kirthi Jayakumar, a legal researcher and lawyer, in her blog, delves into the psychological reasons behind sexual violence in conflict. “Rape and sexual violence at the micro level can be a product of lustful intentions, mental disorders or depravity, as criminology offers. However, at the macro level – where the cases are not individual instances, but a collective of several individual instances that happen at dizzying speed, it is about dominance.”[4]

In an article Guardian published, a Conglese soldier admits to raping 53 women and five and six year old children only because they had the freedom to do whatever they wanted during war.[5]

While women are disproportionately affected, men and LGBTIQ+ individuals can also be victims of sexual violence during war. They may face sexual violence from armed personnel, humanitarian workers or peacekeepers, or be trafficked for sexual exploitation.[3]

When a woman endures any form of sexual violence, the repercussions extend beyond physical and psychological harm; she also bears the weight of stigma. This burden, compounded by the trauma of humiliation, often leads families to ostracize these women, forcing them out of their homes.[4]

The repercussions of sexual violence on physical, mental, and emotional well-being can overshadow every facet of a survivor’s life. Even seemingly mundane tasks, such as getting out of bed, taking a shower, or stepping outside, can become daunting.[6]

Every individual deserves to live free from violence that strips them of their dignity and safety. As we observe the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on the 19th of June, let us reflect on this profound issue and aspire for a world where no one is ever forced to endure such degradation to their very essence.




[1] EVAWkit_06_Factsheet_ConflictAndPostConflict_en.pdf (unwomen.org)

[2] Sexual Violence As A Weapon Of War – The Organization for World Peace (theowp.org)

[3] Five things to know about sexual violence in conflict zones (icrc.org)

[4] Why is sexual violence so common in war? — Peace Insight

[5[ Congo: We did whatever we wanted, says soldier who raped 53 women | Democratic Republic of the Congo | The Guardian

[6] Impacts of sexual violence and abuse | Rape Crisis England & Wales