Nobel Peace Prize 2018 Part I

Nobel Peace Prize 2018 Part I

The Peace Prize of Dr. Denis Mukwege and human rights activist Nadia Murad marks a new understanding of sexual abuse in war. This price can lead to fewer people being exposed to this type of brutal act.

  • How has sexual violence in conflict been considered in the past?
  • What is the most important thing that must be in place to combat this?
  • What are the biggest challenges today?
  • Who are Mukwege and Murad?

Both Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad work to combat sexual abuse in war and conflict. It is not long since this form of violence in war was not something political leaders and the world community were particularly concerned about. It was thought that sexual assault had no political significance, and it was thought that this was a consequence of the brutality of the war and the soldiers’ lack of control over their own aggression and sexuality. Now this is different. The Nobel Peace Prize 2018 forces us to understand this form of war violence, and the award gives weight to those who want to fight this.

2: Impunity

Sexual abuse in war has taken place as long as there have been armed conflicts. In art and literature, rape is often used as a picture of the brutality of war. But there has been less understanding that this form of violence is part of a strategic part of warfare, ie that rape can be used as a weapon. However, the war in Bosnia (1992 – 1995) and the genocide in Rwanda (1994) changed this.

There were several things that caused the attention and understanding of this form of violence to change in step with these conflicts. During the conflict, reputable international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented the widespread and systematic use of sexual assault. They claimed that this form of violence had a clear political purpose in the conflicts. Sexual abuse was used to exterminate ethnic groups, drive them to flee and terrorize them so brutally that they would never return. The organizations also stressed the importance of prosecuting those who committed these acts, or leaders who did not stop soldiers who abused them. Until the conflicts in the 1990s, virtually no one had been punished for committing sexual abuse in war. It had prevailed almost total impunity despite extensive documentation of abuses committed by both German and Allied forces during World War II and by Japanese soldiers during the Pacific Wars. This impunity was no longer tolerated. Rape in war was thus no longer understood as a private act. It was also not considered that men could not control their sexual urges. On the contrary, an understanding was established that this form of violence could also be a military and political means of power – an effective and cheap weapon. Rape in war was thus no longer understood as a private act. It was also not considered that men could not control their sexual urges. On the contrary, an understanding was established that this form of violence could also be a military and political means of power – an effective and cheap weapon. Rape in war was thus no longer understood as a private act. It was also not considered that men could not control their sexual urges. On the contrary, an understanding was established that this form of violence could also be a military and political means of power – an effective and cheap weapon.

Previously, there was a different understanding of the relationship between men and women’s roles in society, and women’s war experiences were not relevant. But with the conflicts of the 90s came a time when women had taken leading roles in politics and society. In addition, civil wars at this time were dominated by violence between peoples in the same state, and sexual assault proved to be an effective way of carrying out both ethnic cleansing and genocide, such as in Bosnia and Rwanda. These experiences not only put rape in war on the international agenda, but also women’s war experiences in general.

3: UN handling of rape in war

Evidence that sexual assault was used as a weapon in war mobilized various organizations and committed political leaders to pressure the UN to recognize this issue. The result was Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in the UN Security Council. This resolution, adopted in 2000, was groundbreaking because it was the first time the UN had declared that women’s experiences in war are crucial to the understanding of international peace and security. The resolution pointed out two important things:

  1. That women must participate in peace processes at all levels. For far too long, there have been far too many men who have dominated this field.
  2. That women have a different need for protection in war and conflict than men because they are more exposed to special types of violence, such as sexualized violence.

According to ethnicityology.com, resolution 1325 has been followed by a long series of resolutions focusing on sexual assault in war. One of the most important things for the UN in this context has been to fight impunity because this is considered the best opportunity to put an end to this form of abuse. The UN has also launched other more offensive methods to combat rape in war. Yale professor Elisabeth Wood points out that “rape is not inevitable in war”. By this she means that sexualized violence in war is possible to eradicate.

It is important to emphasize the enormous change in understanding this represents. When the conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda took place, it was not understood that sexual abuse could be used as a weapon of war. This insight grew through reports and documentation while the conflicts were going on. Today, on the other hand, international actors assume that sexual abuse can be used strategically in a conflict situation. This was a major step on the road to combating and preventing this use of weapons.

Nobel Peace Prize 2018 1