Matters concerning threats to international peace and security are of uttermost importance and that is why such issues are taken up by the highest organ of the United Nations. By the intricate linkage established between sexual violence against women in conflicts and the maintenance of international peace and security, the danger involved in this situation is a force to reckon with. The UN Security Council Resolution 1820 is being implemented in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. A Comprehensive Strategy on Combating Sexual Violence has been developed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Liberia, the National Action Plan launched by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf involves the protection of women against sexual violence.
Despite the existence of Resolution 1820 and the measures taken in implementing it, the problem of sexual violence continues unabated in conflicts. My argument is that, to achieve the ultimate objective of ending sexual violence against women effectively as stipulated in Resolution 1820, there must be existence of a culture where a woman’s rights and dignity are respected rather than a dominant patriarchal society where masculinity, traditionally, receives more privilege in comparison with femininity.
Sexual violence during conflicts
Sometimes the term “sexual violence” is used in a manner that the meaning is equated with “rape”. However, sexual violence is a broader category and during armed conflicts, it happens in diverse forms. It is usually described as widespread and systematic. Widespread means sexual violence “committed on a large scale” and targeting “a multiplicity of victims” whereas systematic means sexual violence being perpetrated in an organized manner and not randomly.[i] Observing modern conflicts, sexual violence has been used in an organized manner as a means to achieve certain purposes. Types of sexual violence in times of armed conflicts include but not limited to rape, gang-rape, sexual slavery and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).
Rape which is the most commonly known type of sexual violence is defined by the appeals chamber judgement of the ICTY during the 2002 Foca Case as, “[t]he sexual penetration, however slight: (a) of the vagina or anus of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator or any other object used by the perpetrator; or (b) [of] the mouth of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator; where such sexual penetration occurs without the consent of the victim.”[ii] Rape can either be committed by one individual or two or more. The act of being sexually violated by more than one person is known as gang rape.
Sexual Slavery is a form of sexual violence in which women are kept in confinement or ordered to present themselves so as to render sexual services to combatants. Nevertheless not all women are forcefully captured by combatants for this purpose. It is noted that while some were forced to provide sexual services “under threat of death or internment”, others “volunteered to serve in the brothels as a way to survive in the dire circumstances of the occupation”.[iii] A typical example of sexual slavery is the association of rape camps with the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War where many women and girls were enslaved.[iv]
With respect to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA), sexual exploitation is “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another,” whereas sexual abuse is defined as “actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.”[v] This type of sexual violence is usually perpetrated by humanitarian or aid workers among internally displaced people or those in refugee camps.
To be continued…
[i] United Nations Security Council Resolution1820: A preliminary assessment of the challenges and opportunities, Prepared by Mahima Achuthan and Renee Black for the 1820 Strategy Session, International Women’s Tribune Centre New York, (September 2009), p.11
[ii] We’ll kill you if you cry, posted on http://www.hrw.org/en/node/12376/section/3, on January 15, 2003. Retrieved May 30, 2010
[iii] E. J. Wood, “Variation of Sexual Violence during War”, POLITICS AND SOCIETY, Vol. 34, No.3, (September, 2006), p.310
[iv] Report by Mcdougall G. J. Special Rapporteur CONTEMPORARY FORMS OF SLAVERY: Systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during armed conflict, , E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/21 (June 6, 2000), p.17
[v] United Nations Security Council Resolution1820: A preliminary assessment of the challenges and opportunities, Prepared by Mahima Achuthan and Renee Black for the 1820 Strategy Session, International Women’s Tribune Centre New York, (September 2009), p.11