Sexual Violence

Sexual Violence Statistics

“The current inability to protect women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings against sexual violence represents a human rights failure of massive proportions”.
 
This firm statement has been made by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, former Executive Director of UNFPA, as response to the horrific number of 50.000 rapes reported during the Bosnia Herzegovina war and 45.000 ones during the Serbia conflict between 1998 and 1999. Continuing, it is estimated that during the civil war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002, more than a quarter of a million women have been victimized by rape. More recently the Syria war has already produced over tens of housands of victims since the battle between the regime and its opponents started in 2011, and the number still increases significantly every day.

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Causes of Conflict Related Sexual Violence

The single strongest predictor of whether a man will commit sexual violence is whether as a child he witnessed violence in his home by a men against a woman.
 
The reasons behind (conflict related) sexual violence are various; to torture, to inflict injury, to degrade and intimidate, to punish, to destabilize populations or to destroy the cohesion within communities. In the latter instances rape is often a public act, aimed to maximize humiliation and shame. For example, in Timor Leste, Indonesian military reportedly raped women in front of their families, and forces Timor men to rape Timor women. Ethnic cleansing may be another goal pursued by sexual violence. In Bosnia public rapes were used to instigate the expulsion of entire Muslim communities. In Rwanda women were deliberately raped with the purpose of infecting them with HIV which would eventually wipe out entire generations.

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Health Consequences of Sexual Violence

Most often, female victims are left to heal without medication or surgical intervention causing inhuman suffering which eventually in many cases leads to death. 
 
Due to the nature of conflict related sexual violence, women are often sexually assaulted using sticks, guns, branches of trees and bottles, causing disastrous physical injuries. Women’s genitals are deliberately destroyed and traumatic fistula is often the result. Permanent damage to the uterus, ensuing incontinence, sexually transmitted infections like Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, Trichomoniasis and even the transmission of HIV, are other reoccurring physical consequences that victims of sexual violence face. Health clinics in Liberia reported in 2003 that all female patients, who said they had been raped by government soldiers, tested positive on at least one sexually transmitted infection. Moreover, in Rwanda 67 percent of the genocide widows joining a field research in 2000 were found to be HIV-positive.   

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Current Medical Shortcomings

There are not enough services currently in place specifically designed to meet the needs of survivors of sexual violence in the Syrian refugee camps
 
Very often the lack of adequate facilities challenges the quality of medical care provided to survivors and causes the administered care to be severely substandard. Even when facilities are in place they might be underutilized due to inconvenience of hours and locations, the latter reinforced by the inability for women to travel long distances due the harassment. Lacking privacy within facilities, absence of female personnel, hindrance by families and fear of honour killings as reprisal of family’s’ shattered honour are other reoccurring causes for women to withhold themselves from adequate care. Another concern is the lack of specifically targeted services. 

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