SEXUAL VIOLENCE: AN INEVITABLE ASPECT OF ARMED CONFLICT
Updated: Oct 30
Author: Garima Kamboj, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from University institute of legal studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh
Sexual violence perpetrated by armed factors during wartime is a critical human rights issue and is considered as inevitable. It is as old as war itself. It is committed against the public and by several attackers and can be against men and women. In some cases, rebellious groups, terrorists, and armies employ this strategy in the war to pursue their objectives. In some other cases, girls and women were given for rape as a reward. It includes rape, gang rape, and attack with various weapons. Sexual violence at that time can take devastating forms, such as forced prostitution, sexual slavery, and sexual torture,and often terrorize people, break families, and destroy mental health badly. It becomes an easy task for the rebels to conquer them.
Historical Aspect of Sexual Violence
At least 10,000 women were sexually tortured and raped by the military during the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. The systematic rape and military sexual slavery were considered crimes against humanity and considered as a violation of human rights by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In the Rwandan tribunal in 1998, it was ruled that rape and sexual violence constitute genocide. Also, the International Court of Justice was established in the same year and resolved many issues of rape and sexual assault. In 2009, a large number of rape cases of males were reported by UN officials and other organizations in eastern Congo. Rape is considered a strategic weapon of warfare that often targets women.
Reflects patriarchal practices
Sexual practices are mainly based on patriarchal practices. In patriarchal societies, the protection of women was considered an honor for men. Women were considered as men's property and crimes against women do not consider as a crime but as an act of humiliation against the owner. In northern Uganda, the men were raped and forced to rape family members to oppress and terrorize the family and break bonds between the family members. The winners of the war not only looted their property but also their women because women were also considered men's property. Moreover, in some conditions women were raped for the private pleasure of the rebels. Raping women gives a message that their men are weak and they could not even protect their women. Sexual violence is an effective tool to terrorize people.
The mental trauma faced by victims
One of the major impacts of the wars is that it ruins the mental health of the people badly. In addition to it, the individuals who have experienced sexual violence, their situation becomes worse. The studies show that women are impacted more than men. Women are the primary caretaker of the family, when they are affected then the whole family gets affected. It can have long-lasting effects on the victim. Survivors of sexual violence can experience symptoms of PTSD, such as Headaches, body aches, nightmares, fatigue, flashbacks, insomnia, etc. Victims are at risk of getting pregnant and suffering from a sexually transmitted disease. It not only affects the individuals but also the growth of the economy and social growth of the nation.
Statistics on Military Sexual Assault
The Study says that women are at higher risk of becoming sexually abuse. The majority of the cases go unreported. 76.1% of victims did not report the crime in 2018.In 2012, there were 26,000 estimated victims of sexual violence in the military – 14,000 male victims and 12,000 female victims. When we look at the statistics, 67% of females did not report their sexual violence cases to authorities, while 81% of males did not report their cases. Sexual violence not only affects the individual but also affects the individual relations with other members of the family.
Protection of Women in Humanitarian Laws
International Humanitarian Law tends to protect and prevent human sufferingwithout any kind of discrimination based on gender. Not all human rights are suspended at the time of wars or any army conflicts. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1996 enlisted that the Right to life, freedom from torture, freedom of movement, recognition as a person before the law, and freedom of thought and expression are the rights that cannot be taken away even at the times of conflicts and war. Special protection was given to female prisoners by keeping a separate room for holding them. Rapes and other sexual assaults are considered as war crimes according to the International Humanitarian Law. It is also suggested that the women prisoners should be kept separate from men prisoners to avoid sexual violence.
International Criminal Tribunal was established to prosecute persons who were responsible for crimes including sexual violations of Humanitarian Laws. ICTY dealt with the violations of the Geneva Conventions, violations of laws of war, and crimes against humanity. Another court established by UN Security Council is the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda which considers rape as a crime against humanity and an illegal act against the honor of a person.
Recent developments in International Humanitarian
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and International Criminal Court (ICC) were the foundation for the codification of sexual violence in the Rome statute. This statute was adopted on 17th July 1998 in Rome and is considered as more comprehensive on sexual violence as compared to the statute of ICC AND ICTY. While ICC came into force on 1st July 2002 and is the world's first permanent International Criminal Tribunal to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Rome statute does not limit sexual violence to rape only but it includes sexual slavery, prostitution, forced pregnancy, and other forms of sexual violence. Rome statute recognizes gender basis of persecution and ICC statute includes the crimes against humanity.
In 2000, UN Security Council Resolution claimed that the increase in the number of women representations in conflict resolution and peacekeeping. In 2008, it defines rape and other sexual violence as a war crime and asks for its elimination. These Resolutions focus on protecting women and children from sexual violence.
Sexual violence is considered as a strategy in wars that impacts a person’s health and mental health. It often terrorizes the people, breaks the communities, and harms them physically and mentally. In some cases, it is done by the military or rebels for their physical satisfaction.Women and children are the most vulnerable to sexual abuse. It can be of different forms such as sexual slavery, sexual torture, forced pregnancy, prostitution, rape, and gang rape. Various courts and tribunals were established to protect people from sexual violence and to prosecutethe individuals who are responsible for the crimes of sexual violence. But it seems inevitable to alienate it completely from society.