Gender-based violence and war

Gender-based violence and war

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Throughout recent history, violence against women and girls has been a part of armed conflict. Women and girls are killed, injured, widowed and orphaned. They are abducted into sexual slavery or forced to exchange sex or marriage for survival. They are raped, a tactic used by fighting forces to humiliate, intimidate and traumatize communities, and as a method of ethnic cleansing.

The facts are stark: up to 50,000 women were raped in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and up to 500,000 during the Rwanda genocide. During the height of fighting in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008, it’s estimated nearly 40 women were raped a day in one province alone. Today, renewed fighting in the eastern part of the country has lead to an increase in sexual and gender-based violence.

Rape is a weapon of war with devastating results. It is not just women who bear the scars of sexual violence; it holds entire communities hostage. Women cannot safely leave their homes to access water, gather firewood or visit the market. Children and teachers cannot safely go to school. Reprisals fuels further conflict.

Long after armed conflict has ended, survivors continue to experience physical injuries, psychological trauma and social stigma. Guilt, shame and anger tears apart relationships. Individuals are unable to carry out normal activities amidst their memories. And violence against neighbors or family members can become so entrenched that it’s considered a normal part of life.

Despite the recognition of the effect of armed conflict on women and girls, not enough is being done. Continuing violence, impunity, poverty, cultural and social stigma, and a lack of resources and political will all play a role in preventing women and girls from having the protection, health and psychological services and legal redress they deserve.

Know the Facts:

  • Between 1991 and 2001, 50,000 to 64,000 women in Sierra Leone’s displacement camps were sexually assaulted by combatants.
  • Up to 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
  • Since 1945, 90 percent of war causalities have been civilians and 3 in 4 fatalities are women or children.

A woman injured in recent fighting between rebel soldiers and Congolese Government soldiers puts her head in her hands at the Heal Africa Hospital in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo on the 23rd November 2012. © Kate Holt


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