Conflict-related sexual violence “not just violates the physical, but the mental and social integrity of societies.” To address this crime, USIP’s Kathleen Kuehnast says we need a survivor-centered approach: “Survivors are experts, they need to be [present] at every part of our understanding and … policy-shaping.”
The ever-growing list of conflict zones in which sexual violence has been reported globally this year, including in Israel, Ethiopia, Sudan, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti, underscores the persistent horror of this scourge. Acts of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) violate not only the physical and mental integrity of the victims but also breach international humanitarian law and human rights principles.
In just 28 months, the Taliban have dismantled Afghan women’s and girls’ rights — imposing draconian restrictions regarding their education, employment and freedom of movement. Any perceived violation of these oppressive policies is often met with harassment, intimidation, and verbal and physical abuse orchestrated by the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue. And when women are detained by authorities, they have been subjected to cruel treatment, including torture.
The wars of the 1990s — particularly in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — saw the devastating use of sexual violence not only by individual subordinate soldiers, but as deliberate tactics of war by state and non-state armed actors. In response, a wave of strong advocacy from women’s civil society organizations called for an end to these acts of violence, and their vision was eventually incorporated into U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and what is now known as the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in 2000.
Last month, the U.N. Security Council echoed past assessments that not enough has been done to address conflict-related sexual violence. But researchers “have established that this particular crime of war is not inevitable,” says USIP’s Kathleen Kuehnast, and there are new strategies for “how best to address the trauma” and prevent it.
During the height of “The Tensions” in Solomon Islands — an armed civil conflict from 1998 to 2003 — women were thrust into the role of peace symbol, negotiator, trauma counsellor and mediator. Women often went in between the two warring sides to negotiate safe trade and movement of people, encouraged militants to give up arms, and led meetings and marches for peace.
The 2023 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Narges Mohammadi, an imprisoned Iranian scientist, journalist and human rights activist, for her principled and persistent campaign against the increasingly repressive regime in Iran. The award also acknowledged the broader Iranian women’s movement, which last year spearheaded the first counterrevolution in history triggered, led and sustained by females, many in their teens. “This year’s Peace Prize also recognizes the hundreds of thousands of people who, in the preceding year, have demonstrated against Iran’s theocratic regime’s policies of discrimination and oppression targeting women,” the Nobel Committee said.
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 immediately exacerbated the country’s precarious humanitarian situation, leaving millions in need of food assistance and other support. Two years later, the situation remains dire, with Afghan women and girls acutely affected by the Taliban’s draconian restrictions on their daily lives. The international community continues to struggle to find a balance between providing desperately needed aid while also pressuring the regime in Kabul to moderate its hardline policies. While Afghans need emergency assistance, the country will continue to deal with cycles of crises until its deep-seated economic challenges are addressed.
Two years after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the human rights situation in the country is abysmal, with women and girls experiencing the worst of the regime’s policies. There is growing evidence that the Taliban are committing the crime against humanity of gender persecution of women and girls, an assertion Human Rights Watch made in a new report. This summer, the World Economic Forum slated Afghanistan last of the 146 countries it ranked in a study on gender gaps. The scope of the Taliban’s women’s rights restrictions is truly unprecedented.
This paper outlines a person-centered approach to outcomes based upon existing evidence and practice knowledge for use with returning women and children in rehabilitation and reintegration (R&R) programs. Being able to identify and assess outcomes, which are the intended accomplishments of these programs, are key for understanding change processes and developing strong programs. These programs should be able to assess and track key outcomes at multiple levels, including individual, family, community, and systems. However, little guidance currently exists regarding strategies for what outcomes should be assessed and how to do so.