File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Sexual Violence During Armed Conflict: A Violation Of International Humanitarian Law

"Rape is used in my country as a weapon against those who only want to live in peace, who only want to assert their basic rights... It is used as a weapon by armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country...We must do everything we can to put an end to this. Violence starts in the mind, so we have to start by changing the minds of men and women all over the world." - Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate and democracy leader in Burma.

When a War is declared against a nation by another nation, then there is lot of destruction in the territory and severely hit the citizens of that nation. Like a major example in front of us is Ukraine- Russia war that majorly destroyed complete Ukraine and its citizens suffered a lot. The human rights of these war hit people get violated to a great extent and has a drastic effect on their physical and mental health. One of these war crimes is Sexual violence.

Since war hit nation is busy in protecting itself, its citizens are targeted to completely broke it through Sexual violence. Sexual violence has always been a hidden atrocity committed on poor citizens during armed conflict. Since these people keep on struggling with keeping them safe, they are considered as an easy target by dominating nation and they try to shack them from top to bottom by committing such shameful acts.

In the past, sexual violence has frequently been seen as an inevitable side effect of armed conflict and misrepresented by military and political authorities as a private crime or the regrettable actions of renegade soldiers. Sexual assault has evolved into an even more purposeful and sneaky weapon of war in situations where civilians are the main targets.

Over the past 20 years, it has become clearer how detrimental it is to both individuals and society. There are many reports which evidently report a huge number of sexual violence committed during World War I and II. The genocide in Rwanda and the two previous wars in the former Yugoslavia lifted the veil and brought to light the suffering of men, women, children, and the entire community as a result of sexual violence.

Presently such sexual violence might be even committed in Ukraine but who knows and cares about finding it out and punishing wrongdoers. And not just these countries there are many countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, etc from where on rolling basis we hear the sexual violence committed on poor women, girls and disabled people. This is really a huge concern where on daily basis, a large number people are surrendering their human rights and are unable to protect them.

We should take this situation in consideration as soon as possible. The issue of sexual violence has received significant attention within the humanitarian sector. Despite admirable developments in both policy and practise, there is still a disconnect between what is advised and what actually occurs in the field.

Sexual Violence

We have been discussing a bit on sexual violence but what does this term mean for? Let's understand the meaning of sexual violence. The term 'sexual violence' means those sexual acts committed on person with the use of force or coercion. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual violence can be defined as "any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person's sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work".[1]

If one accepts such a definition, then, it seems that the threshold of gravity is very low and that the term "violence" encompasses not only physical but also verbal or psychological violence. .[2]There are different forms of sexual violence during armed conflicts like rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking for sexual purposes, sexual benefits, etc. Acts of sexual violence should be regarded as a war crime and an act against human rights. It is an act which keeps on torturing poor war prisoners and citizens. Generally human rights are basic rights which are available to a human even during times of armed conflicts.

These rights also include right to protect human dignity and have bodily autonomy which gets violated due to acts of sexual violence. Sexual violence are not just committed to derive sexual pleasures rather to show power of dominance and authority over poor humans during armed conflicts. It is a well said proverb that to shake the roots of a nation, try to break its citizens by showing power of dominance over them.

International Legal Prohibitions Against Sexual Violence

At all times, especially during armed conflict, women and girls are protected by international human rights laws. These include safeguards against slavery, forced prostitution, rape, sexual assault as torture, and other types of unlawful ill-treatment. Armed opposition groups have increasingly been required to uphold international human rights standards, especially those that control territory.

Rape and other types of sexual violence against women in armed conflict have been forbidden under international law for more than a century. Protections for civilians, prisoners of war, and other non-combatants are outlined in international humanitarian law, commonly referred to as the laws of war, during both external and internal armed conflicts.

Rape and other types of sexual violence can be classified as war crimes, crimes against humanity, or acts of genocide, depending on the larger context in which the crimes were perpetrated. Rape and other kinds of sexual violence are categorically prohibited under the four Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols as grave breaches of humanitarian law in both external and internal conflicts. [3]

In general, sexual assault breaches women's ICCPR-guaranteed rights to be free from sex-based discrimination. Gender-based violence is included in the definition of discrimination under Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),"exactly because gender-based violence has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the enjoyment by women of human rights" on an equal footing with men. [4]

The CEDAW Committee listed a plethora of tasks for governments with regard to putting an end to sexual assault, including making sure victims receive the proper care in the legal system, counselling, support services, medical care, and psychological aid. Sexual slavery and forced prostitution during armed conflict are considered fundamental violations of the right to liberty and security of person under the ICCPR, the African Charter, and CEDAW. [5]

In addition, slavery is forbidden under both Article 8 of the ICCPR (which also forbids forced labour) and the 1926 Slavery Convention as a jus cogens requirement from which no departure is authorised. [6] The UN General Assembly announced in a resolution of 1993 that governments "shall pursue by all appropriate measures and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women." It also stated that eliminating gender-based violence is a part of outlawing gender discrimination. 7 Discrimination based on gender is prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (Article 2).

All participants in an internal armed conflict are subject to the provisions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, including armed opposition groups. Common Article 3 implicitly condemns sexual violence by outlawing "outrages of personal dignity, in especially humiliating and degrading treatment." [8] The Common Article 3 protections are defined in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in international armed conflicts.

Women "must be specifically safeguarded against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, forced prostitution, or any form of indecent abuse," according to Article 27 on the treatment of protected persons.[9] According to Article 147, grave violations of the treaties include "torture or inhuman treatment" and "wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health." [10]

Rape and other types of sexual violence are viewed as severe violations by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Sexual assault can count as a war crime even if it only occurs once. [11] The conflict is governed by Protocol II, which expressly prohibits "violence against life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment, such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment" and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape and enforced prostitution as well as any form of indecent assault.[12] "

Rape, sexual enslavement, forced prostitution, forced pregnancies, forced sterilisation, and any other form of sexual abuse of equivalent gravity are all explicitly included as crimes against humanity in the ICC's statute. [13] So these are some of the international legal laws which expressely prohibit acts of sexual violence.

From all these provisions, we have seen that acts of sexual violence aew a severe breach against human rights and international humanitarian laws prohibits such acts. But it will be merely black written law unless efficiently applied. As we know that these international legal provisions are non-binding in nature, so first they should be adopted into domestic laws of nation and then it should be duty of state to prohibit and punish such acts.

Despite these victories in the legal realm, the situation in the real world remains terrible. It is urgently necessary to increase the application of the worldwide ban of sexual violence and the prosecution of sexual violence both domestically and internationally in order to close the gap between the law and reality.

The prevention of sexual violence must be properly implemented domestically, which goes beyond merely translating international legislation into national regulations. Sometimes significant institutional modifications are required to guarantee legal compliance. Effective IHL compliance processes are required on a global scale, and additional efforts must be taken to guarantee that sexual crimes are duly investigated and prosecuted by international legal organizations.

  1. WHO, above note 14, p. 149
  2. See also "Definitions of Sexual and Gender-based Violence", IRIN, available at:
  3. Rape and other forms of sexual violence can be defined as constituent elements of genocide. Genocide is defined under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as "acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group." Genocide has attained jus cogens status (a norm that preempts other norms) and is prohibited both in its own right and as a crime against humanity. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, approved December 9, 1948, entered into force January 12, 1951,
  4. Women, Law and Development International, Gender Violence: The Hidden War Crimes (Washington D.C.: Women, Law and Development International, 1998), p. 37.
  5. Article 9 of the ICCPR provides for the freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, whilst Article 23 prohibits forced marriage. ICCPR, arts. 9 and 23.
  6. UN General Assembly, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, art. 4.
  7. UN General Assembly, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, art. 4.
  8. Geneva Convention, art. 3.
  9. Fourth Geneva Convention, art. 27 (2). Article 76 of Protocol I extends this protection of protected persons to all women. Protocol I, art. 76.
  10. Fourth Geneva Convention, art. 147
  11. Theodor Meron, "Rape as a Crime Under International Humanitarian Law," American Journal of International Law (Washington D.C.: American Society of International Law, 1993), vol. 87, p. 426, citing the International Committee of the Red Cross, Aide M�moire, December 3, 1992
  12. Protocol II, art. 4 (2) (a), (e), and (f).
  13. Article 7 (1) (g) of the Rome Statute of the ICC enumerates crimes against humanity as "any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity." Rome Statute, art. 7.
Also Read:

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly