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Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in Africa’s Armed conflicts: An Overview Muthoni Mathai The 7 th Annual PCAF Pan African Conference on Psychotraum.

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Presentation on theme: "Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in Africa’s Armed conflicts: An Overview Muthoni Mathai The 7 th Annual PCAF Pan African Conference on Psychotraum."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in Africa’s Armed conflicts: An Overview Muthoni Mathai The 7 th Annual PCAF Pan African Conference on Psychotraum 21 st to 23 rd July 2014 Mbarara Uganda University of Nairobi ISO 9001: Certified

2 Introduction  “Sexual violence in warfare is among the darkest legacies of the 20 th century, and it continues to ravage societies in the new millennium”. Leatherman 2012, pg 2

3  It is estimated that more than 150 million women and girls and 73 million boys experience sexual violence every year (WHO 2002).  Systematically organized rape as a weapon of war is as old as history  “spoils of war” !!! The arc of instability

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5 Sexual violence?  Affects Women and girls much more than boys and men  Affects- Civilians and combatant women, boys and marginalized males  Perpetrators- Are predominantly males  State troops, rebel forces, civilians, and even peacekeepers

6 Gendered experience of sexual violation  War INJURES AND KILLS  While more men are killed in war, women often experience violence:  Sexual Violence against women is characterized by silence and shame, self and social stigma  Under reporting and neglect

7 Atrocities against women’s bodies The horror stories we would rather not hear and having heard forget!  Rape and gang rape  Sexual humiliation and mutilation  Forced Incest  Forced prostitution and sexual enslavement  Kidnap and Forced marriages  Violent abortion of fetuses in pregnant victims  Forced pregnancy.  Deliberate infection with STIs and HIV

8 Public reaction to the horror of atrocities Incomprehension Monstrous Dissociation Silence & Reduced Accountability

9 Conflicts and War  War is about securing vital resources for the survival of the individual and group in the absence of peaceful conflict resolution  Resources- can be physical or social capital necessary to maintaining the coherence of a group as a group

10 ‘Spoils of war’  The phrase ‘spoils of war’ refers to self payment of a conquering army through forceful capture and use of enemy property  Even today women are considered ‘spoils of war’- implication that women are property belonging to the males of the opponent  The rape of women is not about sexual pleasure  The rape of women is about the exercise of power and control  “Their bodies become a battleground over which opposing forces struggle”

11  Women are raped as part of destruction of the property of the enemy  Women are raped in order to unravel the fabric of the opponent’s society  Women are raped as punishment for ‘being’  Women are raped as a way to humiliate the men they are related to

12 SV and Patriarchy  Patriarchic societies maintain and sustain a hierarchical social order central to dominant forms of Masculinities  In this structure of dominance the majority of women are at the bottom  These are the potential victims of sexual violence in conflict situation  Junior combatants and marginalized civilian men- violate women to achieve and reestablish status in the hierarchy of masculine dominance and power structures

13 Disempowerment  The context in which SV in conflict occurs is broader than the conflict and precedes conflicts IT IS:  A social environment in which an overall disempowerment and socio-economic and cultural marginalization of women in peace time exists  A Social environment in which all forms of Gender Based violence have been normalized  And normalization reaches far into post conflict period and even to the next generation

14 Runaway- norms  Norms that produce social harm  Operate through fear to undermine security  Promote propaganda hate  Justifies dominance over the ‘other’  Legitimize conflict process as “right thinking”  Internalized in group stereotyping and dehumanizing labels

15 Health Impact on Girls and Women  Physical harm and injuries  Infectious disease  Environmental harm  Mental health disorders- depression, Anxiety, PTSD, SUD  Malnutrition  Reproductive health Consequences- STIs, HIV, Risky pregnancy, Unsafe abortions, infertility etc  up to 80 per cent of displaced girls in Liberian conflict estimated to have had an induced abortion by the age of 15

16 Social Impact  Abandonment and displacement  Bearing children of rape  Stigma  Living in the streets  Increased burden of care

17 Summary  Disempowered Girls and Women in society who face increased gender based discriminations violence and inequality in peace times are at higher risk of victimization at the beginning of a conflict, during conflict and flight and re-victimization in the post conflict aftermath  “Sexual violence is the biggest fear for women in Central African Republic”. 06 Mar 2014 International Rescue Committee

18 Prevent SV in conflict University of Nairobi ISO 9001: Certified Prevent sexual Violence Governments International organizations & Multinationals Local organizations and communities Civil society

19 Conclusion  Sexual violence in conflict situations can be predicted long before the conflict occurs  Measures can be taken to protect the women  But long term prevention involves the dismantling of social economic and cultural structures that reproduces and maintains the gender inequality  In Africa, this includes among others, doing away with some of our traditions- dear to many hearts- that symbolize male ownership of women’s bodies

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21 University of Nairobi ISO 9001: Certified


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