Rape has been endemic in war for centuries, used as an instrument of torture, humiliation and control against both men and women. Brutalised, these victims often suffer not only personal violation and trauma, but also stigmatisation and rejection from their communities, families and society as a result. Individuals borne from rape similarly suffer in many countries from Europe to Africa. For the first time, the International Criminal Court has indicted an individual Congolese warlord for the widespread rapes that were committed by his soldiers. This was a case where for the first time in the ICC, rape and sexual violence ranked as the most prominent charges levelled against a defendant.
The 1949 Geneva Conventions explicitly prohibited wartime rape, but it wasn’t officially until 1993 that this form of sexual violence was recognised as a crime against humanity. Rape is used as a systematic and widespread weapon throughout war, and its inclusion as a crime against humanity was a direct result of the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia issued arrest warrants against Bosnian Serb soldiers and paramilitaries who had subjected entire groups of Muslim women to gang rape and torture.
The consideration now, is what sort of justice should be provided for the survivors, the victims of wartime rape. Financial reparations, education, security and a provision of their future wishes is important when considering moving forward with the understanding of rape as a wartime instrument.