Sexual violence as a weapon of war | DW Documentary

Sexual violence and mass rape have long been used as a weapon of war. It is not only the victims and survivors who suffer trauma – an entire generation of men, women and children are affected. All too often, the perpetrators remain unpunished.

More than 70 years ago, mass rape, sexual slavery and sexualized torture were employed as weapons in Germany, Japan, Italy and elsewhere during the Second World War. Mass rapes were also used as a ‘collateral’ weapon in the later wars and armed conflicts that erupted in the former Yugoslavia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. Over the past 30 years, sexual violence has been increasingly deployed as a strategic weapon by state military forces, paramilitaries, and armed groups. The victims suffer lasting trauma and persistent shame, yet the subject largely remains a taboo.

The International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict is observed on June 19. The first of these United Nations resolutions condemning sexual violence as a weapon of war was issued in 2008. More than ten years later, this documentary asks why international justice has failed to put an end to the impunity that generally follows this crime. Public awareness of the problem has been further raised by the two Nobel Peace Prize winners of 2018: Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who has treated tens of thousands of rape survivors, and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, who is a survivor of sexual violence at the hands of the Islamic State.


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