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Conflict Related Sexual Violence

Human rights violations that occur when sexual violence is used as a weapon.

This article brings together available social science research on CSRV into two categories: causes and outcomes. Overall, research is aimed to make a significant progress in our understanding of the causes of CRSV, notably in 4 areas: purpose, context, individual motivations, and intra-group relations. There is a need of understanding this from grass root levels considering the Psycho-Social needs and other requirements as well.

Understanding the purpose and context
Brown miller in his study has very precisely conceptualised the basic psychology behind using systematic rape as a weapon of vengeance by examining gender relations in warzones and conflict areas. He argued that when women in times of peace are considered as a possession of a man it gets amplified during war times.

Feminist research has maintained since its origin that men and women's relationships are not equal, but rather hierarchical and patriarchal. Women are traditionally viewed as men's possessions in this social framework.[1] 'The soldier becomes an adrenaline-rushed young guy with permission to kick in the door, to seize, to steal, to give vent to his suppressed wrath against all women who belong to other men,' writes Brown miller of the combat zone.

And, to my surprise, this was seen during the Rwandan genocide and continues to be seen now. Such mental constructs are the result of fundamental patriarchy, in which masculinity is connected with power and authority, while femininity is associated with submissiveness and vulnerability. Women are raped not because they are adversaries, but because they are the targets of a deep-seated hatred that pervades the collective psyche and manifests itself during times of catastrophe.

The judgement of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which was the first in an international court to recognise rape as a form of genocide, reaffirmed the idea that rape can be regarded an element of genocide.

Simply assuming that women are easy targets and thus victims does not eliminate the antecedents of the rationale that policies and defining human rights for them are still vague when the laws themselves do not provide them with a stable social identity and a firm ground on which to stand up for their rights. Until then, all we are doing is having pointless discussions.
Are women human? � International law and its ambiguity in granting equal status.

Mackinnon[2] argues that current human rights law do not account for violations of women rights with respect to rape, battering and pornography. She further argues that state and international law are diluting women's rights in her book she asks that if men saw women as human would they abuse them so often.

This takes us to the notion of Aristotle and his idea of equality where he said traditional concepts of rights assume that people have equal rights only insofar as they are similar. There are some compacts that are present on papers but sadly countries have failed to be its signatories for example convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) it is something that we have in framework to be implemented but it is not gaining as much significance as it actually should, one of its weakness is also that its preamble bases it in morality which is debateable. CEDAW never said that inequalities and atrocities that exists upon women is a lie, that there is no justification for it.

What can be done?
What bothers more is that international conventions and these treaties that aim to protect women from violence are focusing merely on the tip of the ice berg, it is too broad to be effective in terms of its practical applications. We cannot dismantle systematic oppression in sea of diversity by just drafting few pages that calls for prohibition. It requires more than this artificial mechanism. Here is a small representation of how actually the human right treaties are working-

Human rights cannot be safeguarded solely by campaigning against violence and hostility, and other factors cannot be overlooked too selectively. I believe that a plight of women is better understood by women, we need more women as stakeholders when it comes to drafting conventions, speaking up for real issues in assemblies and by that I mean inclusivity of women from all ethnic backgrounds. Community interventions are important, state accountability is important! International law is what we call positive morality at one point kits effectiveness gets faded and there can be instances where it is completely avoided.

Psycho- social reforms
We see that human right laws need support of many other disciplines such as psychological reinforcement to firstly modify the irrational beliefs of the antecedent and the consequences, in a more objective manner it is called ABC analysis ( A- antecedent , B- belief and C � Consequence) this was a rational emotive therapy method by Albert Ellis positive psychologist.
I read this long time back it falls under the umbrella of cognitive therapy to treat maladaptive and dysfunctional cognitive structures.

From here I see society and an individual a comparative study with maladaptive thoughts that needs to be modified with help of psycho social intervention. Let's take it this way with a hypothetical explanation: A man X believes that women are slaves and they must be subjected to oppression, this is clearly an example of irrational thought that mediates between his antecedent and consequences.

On interviewing this man X we get to know that his father had two wives and he considered them mere object by mistreating them this fact is the causing factor of X's irrational belief and it must be replaced by rational thoughts else the consequences will be hostility, abuse and violence towards women. It will further take cognitive reinforcements and such measures that leads to change in his thoughts gradually. When we look at how males across different cultures regard women, we see one common structure: inferiority.

The reasons for their unequal treatment of women vary depending on diversity and individual variations, but I'd like to point out another common structure: patriarchy. Human rights and international law must carry out this social experiment by focusing on women's protection.

This collective consciousness are rigid structures shattering them overnight is not possible but there are some rational solutions in front of us that can be implemented, gender screening when it comes to equality must be prohibited via campaigns and cognitive restructuring ideas. Unfortunate but true that we have to teach this very basic concept of Women and men are species of same genus that is humankind. It's the cultures and local mores that label one weak therefore they must be the target first.
  • Human rights activist at local levels must be encouraged for the greatest good of society these NGOS and civil societies are agents of international law more funding and importance should be given to them.
  • One reason why majority societies oppress women is because lack of their visibility in important public spheres like education, politics and media. These spheres must be made more inclusive.
  • Primary education is critical in ensuring that the fundamentals of our education convey the correct principles. Vygotsky and Piaget Two Russian psychologists proposed that children's cognitive organisation occurs during their early formative years. If we want to ensure that future generations' human rights are protected, we must create new structures and patterns for them that are far healthier, gender neutral, and culturally equitable. Gender representation in textbooks are very crucial.
  • Human rights legislation awareness: Many women and children in rural and developing nations are unaware of their fundamental human rights, and as a result, most of their transgressions go unrecognised even by themselves.
Psycho- Legal reforms
John Austin rightly said that law is the command of the sovereign backed up by sanction, human rights violations must have strict consequences. Psycho legal reforms are more dynamic measures that are interdisciplinary in nature. Because of weak state legislation and a lack of international engagement, the practise of systematic rape in Rwanda normalised the crime as a purely vengeful instrument, further depriving victims of justice.

Here are some suggestions for closing existing loopholes:
  • Since international law and the human rights arena are still emerging and forming a definite framework, it's critical to identify parties who can be held accountable for state-level human rights violations in order to secure their enforceability. Delegation of power in a systematic order can help human rights and international law work better
  • Introducing women from various ethnic backgrounds to talk about human rights violations and concerns on behalf of other women enduring atrocities at regional, state, and worldwide levels. It is critical to remember that these female leaders must be protected by the state, which will be held accountable to international chief organisations if anything goes wrong.
  • Treaties and policies in international law exist only on paper, with no actual implementation, and so are not properly enforced. Either parties decline to sign or only a few of them do so in order to follow the process. The apex authorities should have more capacity to enforce these treaties in the actual world.
  • History gives us an evidence as to how the struggles and torment of CRSV victims were neglected and no justice was provided to them, the Human rights victim compensation schemes an initiative to provide relief to the victims. Further provisions for institutional care and individualised treatment that give occupational and vocational trainings can be incorporated in legal measures.
  • Victim compensation schemes should not be restricted to monetary compensation; they should also include psychological support. CRSV sometimes includes unseen victims, such as adult men, who do not seek justice due to prejudices and a fear of additional humiliation. Sexual violence victims are more likely to develop psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression as a result of the conflict. In such cases, a trauma centre or emotional rehabilitation centre with psychiatric care and assistance is required.

Academic and research reforms
There is universal agreement that social science research has contributed little to the resolution of societal issues. The notion that social science is best suited to develop answers is common in these assessments, while in fact, it may be better suited to investigate how issues arise in the first place[3].

Conducting study in these areas allows for social experiments and natural observations that can aid in the creation of laws and policies. It can also result in identifying some hidden variables and causes that have never been observed before, conducting interviews , recording and analysing testimonies, participating in natural observations and recording the outcomes can improve the quality of laws and further it will facilitate the international bodies and state to understand things better and more closely.

Not that existing treaties and laws should be repealed entirely, but policies that affect people's behaviour and psychology should be considered. Policies that not only seek for but also enforce specific rights for women, with repercussions if they are infringed anything else would be a mockery to the suffering of victims.

We come to an end point where the question is that are international bodies more likely the nation States to understand the magnitude of crime against women and to stop them? If international law and national laws come together to see crime against women as crime against humanity, and understand that women are not tool of vengeance or oppression but humans with equal rights as men our long battle of equality might slightly begin to end.

  1. Niarchos, C. N. Women, War, and Rape: Challenges Facing the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Human Rights Quarterly, 17(4), 649-690. (1995).
  2. Vol. 37, No. 1, Carol Anne Douglas, Review: Are Women Human? And other international dialogues Reviewed Work: Are Women Human? By Catharine A. MacKinnon, pp. 73-76 (4 pages), Off Our Backs (2007)
  3. Karl E. Weick , Small Wins Redefining the Scale of Social Problems, Cornell University, ,(1984)

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Tanisha Sharma - 4th year, Delhi metropolitan education, GGSIPU
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: FB205461938174-22-0222

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