About Violence Against Women and War

Women and girls often embody the terror of war in conflict and post-conflict areas. Beyond the physical, economic, social and environmental destruction that armed conflicts impose on communities, violence against women is used strategically in conflict regions as a brutal war tactic. Examples of this include such deplorable acts as rape, forced impregnation, forced sterilization, sexual humiliation and sexual slavery.

  • Rape is used systematically as a weapon of war, with women often being gang-raped by large groups of men. Brutal and widespread rape, characteristic of many conflict zones, can effectively be an act of genocide by damaging women’s ability to reproduce or simply ostracizing them from their communities.
  • Conflict zones and situations of war present especially unstable circumstances that leave systematic rape and violence against women unaddressed. So many cases go unreported because women are afraid of further attacks if they identify the perpetrators. Even with reported cases, there is enormous impunity that leaves women living with their attackers nearby.
  • In an environment of violence and war, infrastructures break down and normal standards of security and law and order disappear. In these lawless conditions, women are in greater danger of facing violence in any place at any time. Women may also face violence at the hands of those who should protect them such as the police, armed militias, and even peacekeepers.
  • Women comprise 80 percent of refugee and displaced populations worldwide. Often families are broken up by the time women reach refugee camps and thus women are seen as unprotected and are at a higher risk for attack. Even within the camps, women remain at risk of violence when carrying out simple tasks needed for survival, from collecting water or firewood, to going to the latrine at night. In the decade from 1991–2001, at least 64,000 displaced women were survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Sierra Leone.