June 19 of every year was declared as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on June 19, 2015. It was created, not only to raise awareness but to honour survivors of sexual violence and to pay tribute to all those who have devoted and lost their lives around the world when standing up against these crimes.
The UN defines "conflict-related sexual violence" as rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation. This is not a news as sexual violence has been a weapon of war over time. Women and girls are raped in war; they are forcefully taken as wives; taken away from their countries as sex slaves
According to unicef.com, systematic rape is often used as a weapon of war in 'ethnic cleansing'. More than 20,000 Muslim girls and women have been raped in Bosnia since fighting began in April 1992, according to a European Community fact-finding team. Teenage girls have been a particular target in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, according to The State of the World's Children 1996 report. The report also says that impregnated girls have been forced to bear 'the enemy's' child.
From the same source, it's noted that during World War II, women were abducted, imprisoned and forced to satisfy the sexual needs of occupying forces, and many Asian women were also involved in prostitution during the Viet Nam war. This shows how women and girls are subjected to trafficking and prostitutions even in today's conflict as of Susan's crises.
Sexual violence in war is publicly done. It can be done through gang rape, systematic rape or men inserting objects in the women's vagina or anus. It's not a form of pleasure as we all think neither is it a function of what the victims wear as shown in the Muslims' case. Rather, it is a display of power and a means of instilling fear in the victims. It's meant to torture the victims, sexually. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820 states that, sexual violence is “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or an ethnic group.” Would you say sexual violence is stemmed from sexual desires?
In international law, sexual violence in conflict is characterised as war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is a weapon of war because it destabilises and destroys families, communities states and countries. It is used to destroy a population as of the Rwanda genocide in 1994. You are asking how does it destroy families? Well, it's not far fetched.
Imagine a state where fathers and sons are forced to rape their daughters and mothers or wives and sisters. Just imagine a state where sisters are pregnant for their brothers or fathers. Imagine a state where women and girls are used for the perpetrators' sexual desires as of trafficking, slavery and prostitution. Imagine a state where grandmothers are raped. Just imagine what's going on in Sudan right now. It's pathetic as Dalia El Roubi cried out in an interview, "the symbolism behind the rape of women is very substantial, it’s aimed at breaking society. You rape 80 women, you rape the whole village”.
In reference to a post on france24.com addressing the Sudan crises, Jabrallah said, "there are many testimonies and eye witnesses of sexual violence, including gang rapes, but it’s very difficult to reach people, victims feel insecure and traumatised. We need help from the international community.” Also, a lady who wanted to be identified as Huma said, “we have heard cases of sexual harassment in detention to ‘break the girls’ since this revolution began [in December 2018] although the reports have multiplied since June 3. They [RSF troops] were asking girls to take out their underwear as a humiliation, it shows the extent of the toxic criminality here". This is sad but it would be great if sexual violence is not used as a weapon of war.
Using sexual violence as a weapon in war makes the victims feel useless and traumatised. They feel worthless which affects everything they do. It destroys families and destabilises communities as well. As we observe this day, we should bear it in mind that it's not the victims' fault and should try as much as possible to eliminate sexual violence in our thoughts, words and actions.