Rape in conflict has been viewed as a byproduct of war, as a right of the conquerors. Victims of sexual violence were ignored. Only since 1998 – since the judgment of Jean-Paul Akayesu in which he was found guilty for provoking sexual violence during the Rwandan genocide – has sexual violence been internationally recognized as a deliberate method to exterminate a group of people. It was also proven that orders had been given to commit this crime.
Sexual violence causes a society to disrupt by exclusion, infertility, HIV, and, not uncommon, a lethal end for the victims. It therefore can be used as a slow form of genocide.
With this symposium the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies aimed to offer a retrospective view of sexual violence in conflict. Apart from addressing recent developments such as social and legal evolvements, the many presumptions and prejudices that surround this topic were discussed as well. Sexual violence is more than rape. Forcing a person to strip naked in public, mutilating a person’s genitals, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution or enforced sterilization, and forced pregnancy are all part of this particular crime. And men can become victims as well.