Awarding the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to advocates for survivors of wartime sexual violence, Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, indicates that the issue of sexual abuse has gained international recognition. This comes ten years after the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1820, which declared that conflict-related sexual violence constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. This Special Report highlights the limited scope of the resolution, examines the connections between sexual violence and conflict, and urges key stakeholders to view sexual violence—both during conflict and after—as a threat to international peace and security.

Summary

  • The consequences of sexual violence during armed conflict include trauma, social stigma, cyclical poverty, health issues, and unwanted pregnancies. Furthermore, the impacts of sexual violence during armed conflict last generations, disrupting societies and making peace elusive.
  • Recognizing the scale of the problem, the United Nations Security Council in 2008 adopted Resolution 1820, which condemned sexual violence as a tool of war and offered specific actions to address the causes and consequences of wartime sexual violence.
  • The implementation of Resolution 1820 has primarily focused on sexual violence committed by armed actors, but ten years of programming and research demonstrate clear connections between conflict and sexual violence that extend beyond wartime.
  • Other forms of sexual violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse, domestic sexual violence, and violence targeted at women in politics, are often exacerbated by armed conflict and increase insecurity. This report defines this violence as conflict-associated sexual violence.
  • Conflict-associated sexual violence contributes to the normalization of violence, undermines social cohesion, and worsens structural inequalities.
  • The harmful impacts of conflict-associated sexual violence threaten the security of women, communities, and states, and disrupt peace processes.
  • The United Nations and its member states, civil society organizations, media outlets, the private sector, and academia must recognize and address the detrimental impacts of conflict-associated sexual violence.
  • The policy community must consider conflict-associated sexual violence as both a public health and a security concern.

About the Report

Adopted in 2008, UN Security Council Resolution 1820 called upon member states to end sexual violence against women and girls and acknowledged the international community’s responsibility to respond to and prevent conflict-related sexual violence. Although Resolution 1820 has led to remarkable progress in addressing sexual violence during conflict, narrow interpretations of what constitutes conflict-related sexual violence limit its impact. This report focuses on types of sexual violence that may occur outside of conflict but are worsened by it and makes recommendations to institutions that can play a role in preventing sexual violence during and after conflict.

About the Authors

Pearl Karuhanga Atuhaire is a program specialist with UN Women in Liberia. Nicole Gerring is a senior lecturer in the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State University. Laura Huber is a PhD candidate in political science at Emory University. Mirgul Kuhns is a peacebuilding practitioner based in Washington, DC. Grace Ndirangu is a graduate student in governance, peace, and security at the African Nazarene University in Nairobi, Kenya. All five are members of the Missing Peace Initiative’s Young Scholars Network.

Related Publications

Afghanistan: Can This Be a Real Peace Process?

Afghanistan: Can This Be a Real Peace Process?

Monday, March 23, 2020

By: Sharif Shah Safi

Like every Afghan, I’m watching with fear and hope to see what will emerge from last month’s agreement between the United States and the Taliban. My hope is that it can help end more than 40 years of war. My fear is that the current process may not result in a just and dignified peace where all Afghans are considered equal citizens, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. I fear that the Taliban’s rigid interpretations of Islamic laws will undermine our country’s gains of the past 18 years: an open media, women’s presence in public spheres, and more.

Type: Blog

Gender; Peace Processes; Youth

What Women Have Won

What Women Have Won

Friday, March 6, 2020

By: Nancy Lindborg

Five years ago, as the newly appointed and first woman president of the United States Institute of Peace, I was celebrating International Women’s Day in Kabul with the wonderful Afghan women on our USIP country team. Having first visited Afghanistan in 1997, when the country was in the grip of the Taliban, it was a joyous opportunity to mark nearly two decades of progress with this group of professional women—lawyers, scholars, and program managers.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender

How Kenya’s Women Are Preventing Extremism and Violence

How Kenya’s Women Are Preventing Extremism and Violence

Thursday, March 5, 2020

By: Nicoletta Barbera

A group of women gathered recently in Kiambu, an overcrowded Kenyan town, to build their local response to a national problem: recruitment, especially of young men, by extremist groups such as al-Shabab. Kiambu’s women form one of several groups nationwide that are launching local dialogues—typically among community members and authorities—to build well-rooted efforts to counter extremist influence. These groups are part of a network called Sisters Without Borders, which has risen from Kenya’s grassroots over the past five years. On the upcoming International Women’s Day, the story of Kenya’s sisters is worth noting as a success for women building peace and confronting terrorism in their homelands.

Type: Blog

Gender; Violent Extremism

Belquis Ahmadi on Afghan Women and the Peace Process

Belquis Ahmadi on Afghan Women and the Peace Process

Thursday, March 5, 2020

By: Belquis Ahmadi

Since 2001, Afghan women have assumed larger roles in society—becoming teachers, doctors and government officials. With intra-Afghan talks expected to begin this month, USIP’s Belquis Ahmadi says it’s important the Taliban “accept the reality that today’s Afghanistan is very different from the country they ruled” when it comes to women’s rights.

Type: Podcast

Gender; Peace Processes

View All Publications