Sexual violence, even in the 21st century remains to be something that is stigmatized and not understood rationally. Sexual violence is in most cases a depiction of power and control by one person rendering the other’s rights of consent meaningless and leaving them helpless. While sexual violence is in itself a huge problem even in most modern societies, sexual violence in conflicts stages a more alarming range of issues. With the growing number of armed conflicts around the world, girls and women are increasingly under the threat of being subjected to sexual violence in the context of an armed conflict.
The United Nations describes “conflict-related sexual violence” as any form of sexual violence including rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy or enforces sterilization perpetrated against men, women, boys and girls, that is in any way linked to a conflict. Sexual violence is increasingly being used as a tool of war to terrorize the population and communities and in many cases, it is also used to deliberately infect the women belonging to the target community with HIV or render then incapable of having children. Sometimes, it is also used to change the ethnic make-up of the future generations of the particular community. There are innumerable accounts of women being targeted in conflicts like religious riots or armed conflicts triggered due to ideological differences, besides them being non-combatants in the conflicts.
In 2015, the United Nations declared 19th June as the International Day for Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. With this, it aims to bring the issue of sexual violence in conflicts to the attention of the masses and authorities across the world, urging them to react and take action to prevent the same. 19th June is thus, also meant to honour and remember those who were victim to violence like this and to commemorate the efforts of people who have dedicated their lives to resolving the issue. This year’s theme- “Preventing Sexual Violence and Crimes through Justice and Deterrence” is set to send a strong message condemning sexual violence as a tactic of war and vowing unity and commitment between various nations and organizations to put an end to the violence. As a part of the same, a panel discussion is being conducted in the UN Headquarters in New York where various officials will come together to look at potential plans of action to tackle the situation and curb the problem at the earliest. Along with the panel discussion, the hashtag End Rape in War (#EndRapeInWar) is being used to unite people on the internet and urge them to come out and have discussions and voice their opinions on the same.
It is estimated that more than 200,000 women were raped in the wake of the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1998 along with the many thousands in places like Sierra Leone and Liberia witnessing civil war and conflict. Like any other act of violence or sexual violence, sexual violence in conflict severely impacts the victim’s psychological and physical health leaving them with a lifetime of trauma and pain and attacks civilians and non-combatants to terrorize the masses. A comprehensive approach along with a supportive and cooperative international environment can effectively help the international community fight against sexual violence in conflicts and is indeed, the urgent requirement for the sustenance of peace and security.