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Our analysis

Conflict situations and the absence of the rule of law create a situation in which insecurity and therefore impunity prevail. It is in this context that rape can become a mass crime, so it is necessary to work on prevention. Consequently, sexual violence cannot be approached without including questions of the rule of law, good governance, security and so on. 

With little or no access to either justice or health care, the stigma and trauma that rape generates cannot be treated immediately, as it should. Victims hide in silence, evidence disappears and the crime becomes a "perfect crime", impossible to prove. A kind of collective silence coupled with the taboo associated with sexual violence deprive victims of a voice and hinders a response to the crimes committed.

Over 90% of rape victims live in inaccessible areas. At worst, they are never identified; at best, they are identified and located, but often weeks or even months after the crime was committed.


The consequences of conflict-related sexual violence 


Insidious, low-cost, with visible repercussions over the very long term, protected by the impunity that remains king in this field: war rape is the perfect crime.


Conflict-related sexual violence has a variety of consequences, including first and foremost individual consequences for each victim: 

  • Physical consequences: gynaecological complications (all the more so as victims are rarely treated quickly after the attack), STDs/STIs, unwanted and high-risk pregnancies, changes in the relationship with the body and sexuality, etc.

  • Psychological consequences: trauma, lowered self-esteem, feelings of shame and guilt, even post-traumatic stress disorder (characterised by regular reliving of scenes of trauma, "physical manifestations linked to the extreme emotion felt", and significantly altering personal, social and/or professional life).

  • Social consequences: stigmatisation in certain communities, exclusion of victims from their family or community, women repudiated by their husbands, etc. All these repercussions are linked to the taboo surrounding rape and further encourage victims to remain silent about these crimes.


But sexual violence is all the more devastating because it has a number of collective repercussions: 

  • Unravelling of the social fabric and destruction of the community: rape as a tool of war leads to the destruction of the victim and, in turn, of his or her family, group and community. 

  • Establishment of a climate of impunity: a low percentage of legal proceedings are brought in relation to the actual number of acts of violence committed, or they are not brought to a conclusion (due to the difficulty for victims to report the violence, the lack of evidence, the conflict or post-conflict context or the lack of will to prosecute these crimes), fuelling a feeling and a climate of impunity.

  • Establishment of a rape culture: if these crimes are not addressed and prosecuted, the violence continues to escalate, and a rape culture takes root in countries where wartime rape has taken place, long after the conflicts have ended. Witnesses to rape (which often takes place in public or in front of family members), especially children and young adults, thus learn that rape is a norm. This situation provides a fertile environment for the perpetuation of violence, a phenomenon that Dr. Mukwege aptly describes as "the metastasis of wartime rape.".

  • Destruction of the very equilibrium of a society: leading to the exclusion and rejection of victims, impoverishment, stigmatisation of children born of rape, escalation of violence, undermining of the economy of the community or country concerned, etc.


It is a multiple blast weapon that causes a whole series of consequences on different scales


The answers provided

To curb this weapon, the response must be multi-sectoral and holistic:

- On a medical level: victims must be able to benefit from general medical care, but sometimes also from reconstructive surgery. The medical response must also include psychological and even psychiatric support to deal with the victims' trauma.

- On the legal front: rigorous and impartial investigations must be carried out. The aim is to gather evidence and data so that legal proceedings can be initiated. It is therefore essential to train professionals (lawyers, legal experts, law enforcement officers, etc.) in precise and effective methods for investigating and listening to victims.

In addition, there are several legal avenues open to victims: they can have recourse to the national justice system of each country, to international criminal justice (international criminal tribunals, hybrid jurisdictions, ICC), or to foreign courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

- Analytically: we need to understand the context in which sexual violence takes place. Analysis of the political, economic and social situations - and sometimes also of the ethnic, religious or tribal fabric - is therefore essential. We also need to carry out a geostrategic analysis, in terms of understanding international relations and conflicts.

- In terms of rehabilitation: We need to look further ahead, because the victims' lives do not stop and we need to know how to support them. It is crucial not to confine these people to their status as victims. Empowering survivors is at the heart of the response: they must be actors in their own rehabilitation. Supporting victims in their professional projects can lead to their social and economic rehabilitation within their community. This rehabilitation must also involve the perpetrators of rape, through support work and psychological follow-up.

In recent years, the use of war rape has increasingly attracted the attention of the international community. Politicians, public figures and international organisations have begun to recognise sexual violence in conflict as a problem for humanity as a whole.

Despite the heightened awareness surrounding conflict-related sexual violence in recent years, the establishment of effective solutions to address this devastating issue remains inadequate, and tangible progress on the ground has been limited.

WWoW is making an impact at a global level by highlighting the structural problems linked to war rape and by working with local organisations and communities. Its aim is to provide a global response through a local approach based on the wishes and needs of survivors.



Today, no figures can be considered reliable because no comprehensive study has yet been carried out. 


Examples of countries where conflict-related sexual violence is taking place

In Nanjing in China in 1937, in Bangladesh in 1971, in Guatemala, in Rwanda in 1994, in Sierra Leone, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Kenya and in Zimbabwe in 2008 during the elections, in Guinea, in the DRC and in Sudan, in Libya, in Algeria, Syria, Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, Nigeria with Boko Haram, Iraq, Burma against the Rohingyas, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Sudan and Ukraine in 2014, 2022 and 2023. .. 


These are just a few examples of countries where conflict-related sexual violence has occurred. There are no reliable figures on the number of victims involved, and existing figures need to be multiplied by 3 or even 10 to reflect reality. WWoW is asking for resources to carry out this global study. 

Where do we stand today?


Despite the scale of the phenomenon and the fact that international criminal institutions such as the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and more recently the International Criminal Court, have established that rape is a constituent element of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, there are still too few trials underway. The main reason for this? The difficulty of gathering evidence (testimony from victims, evidence of orders given at high level), but also and above all, the lack of pragmatic and effective responses.

In addition, too little is being done to care for the victims: it is necessary to consider the unique nature of the trauma caused, to support them with simple, targeted and positive actions, to enable them to emerge from their position as victims and build the resilience they need to regain their place in society.

Various NGOs have tackled sexual violence in times of conflict: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, FIDH, TRIAL International, CIVITAS MAXIMAS, REDRESS and many others. They are working to raise awareness of this issue in the international community and civil society, and to provide care for victims and prosecute perpetrators. However, while these NGOs have identified this burning issue, there is currently no federated centre of expertise and action devoted entirely to wartime rape.

Through the development of the Back Up tool, WWoW aims to provide a global response, create a solid network and provide appropriate tools for victims and professionals. On the one hand, Back Up will bring together the professional actors involved in these issues; on the other, it will safeguard evidence and enable survivors and communities to combat conflict-related sexual violence and, above all, give them a voice.


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