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Exploring the topic of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

By Noreen Zwanenburg & Hanne Riet.

“I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.” (Nadia Murad, 2017)

Nadia Murad is a Yezidi human rights activist that was held captive as a sex slave by ISIS and escaped. She won a Nobel Peace prize in 2019 for the work she does as an activist for survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. She is currently working with Yazda (a UK-based Yezidi human rights organization) on bringing ISIS before the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. She is the recipient of the Vaclav Havel human rights prize, the Sakharov Prize, and is a UN goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of Human Trafficking.

About us

We, Noreen and Hanne, dedicated all our time and energy this semester into creating value for the topic of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV). The both of us are interested in humanitarian challenges and wanted to address a topic related to the humanitarian aid field. After doing some desk research during the summer, CRSV sparked our interest. Specifically, because this form of Sexual violence (SV) was quite new to us and we both have a strong sense of justice for female rights issues. In this blog post, we will introduce the issue of CRSV and the complexity of the topic. After reading this blog post, we hope to have inspired you to do something about this form of systematic and planned sexual violence. And hope you want to keep learning about CRSV and will follow the social platform we have created.

What is CRSV?

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence embodies the use of sexual violence against civilians as a tool of military strategy. Women and children are most vulnerable during situations of conflict and therefore are those most represented in data regarding CRSV. However, men are also sometimes victims of CRSV. Sexual violence is used as a systematic tool of genocide and disrupts communities in conflict. Forms of sexual violence in conflict are (gang) rape, sexual slavery, forced nudity, human trafficking, forced prostitution, and Female Genital Mutilation. Survivors of CRSV and their communities experience extensive short-term effects. These effects are more visible and physical, such as physical trauma, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Due to stigma, some of these short-term effects are not always treated and attended to. It can take years before a survivor dares to come forward. Since the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, there are still women who are coming forward with stories of SV that they experienced over 25 years ago. Long-term and more invisible effects on survivors and communities are that survivors of SV are not accepted back into their communities. Sometimes, when there are children born from rape they are rejected by their mothers and the communities. Besides, survivors also face difficulty rebuilding their livelihoods and fight the stigma related to Sexual Violence in general.

Process

When engaging with the network we stumbled upon two interesting insights that we didn’t foresee when we started. The first one is the criticism towards the term CRSV and what this means within the humanitarian community. Namely, the term CRSV excludes other forms of SV in conflict settings such as domestic (sexual) violence and intimate partner violence. However, these forms of SV increase intensively during times of conflict. By only including the systematic form of SV in Conflict and the ‘war tool’, it excludes a lot of survivors that have similar traumatic experiences.

The second criticism experts expressed was the focus on data collection by international organizations and the international community. On the one hand, this has resulted in more attention and knowledge about the topic. Due to the focus on data collection for international prosecution of war crimes of SV, the needs of survivors are too often overlooked. For example, the anonymity of survivors cannot always be guaranteed, and they are not sufficiently supported in rebuilding their livelihoods. Therefore, we wanted to focus on a product that focuses on creating more awareness for CRSV and highlights organizations that have a survivors-centered approach.

What is our product?

Our final value creator product is a social platform on Instagram. On this platform called @Eliminate_CRSV, we aim to raise awareness and educate about CRSV and highlight organizations with a survivors-centered approach. Throughout the process, we engaged with experts from UN organizations and different NGOs in Iraq, Rwanda, Greece, the DRC, and Kenia. With our product and the content, we have created, we hope that our followers become more informed, aware, and are inspired to take action to eliminate CRSV. This, to make sure that Nadia Murad’s dream of being the last girl to experience CRSV becomes true.

Link to @Eliminate_CRSV: https://www.instagram.com/eliminate_crsv/?hl=en

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