On two common problems with policy efforts to prevent sexual violence (during war but probably also peacetime)

…while there are no generalized remedies to prevent sexual violence, let us highlight two common problems in policy efforts aimed at preventing sexual violence.

One is the tendency to adopt quick, easy and visible remedies, such as isolated workshops on human rights and IHL, and information campaigns, rather than long-term commitment addressing the complex structural causes. One can see why such remedies are so tempting: they tend to be uncontroversial, respond to a sense of urgency, and provide visible proof for the constituency that something is being done. However, these types of superficial interventions seldom have any tangible effects. The main problem in most warring contexts is not that the perpetrators of rape are unaware that rape is wrong and a crime.

A second problematic tendency in current interventions is the propensity to isolate sexual violence from other forms of violence committed against civilians. This problem is tricky, as the newly won arrival of sexual violence in the global security arena also signals a great success, which should not be underestimated or undermined. However, the resulting singular focus on sexual violence in many conflict arenas can carry some unintended and unfortunate effects. In addition to rendering us deaf to women’s (and men’s) stories of other violence committed against them, such a singular focus risks contributing to a commercialization of sexual violence, as has been the case in the DRC. This ultimately banalizes sexual violence. The fight against sexual violence is best served, not by a singular attention only to sexual violence, but by better listening to the stories of those affected by war, and by situating the prevention of sexual violence in the context of civilian protection and women’s rights more generally.

–Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern, “Ask the Experts: Sexual Violence During War” (bolding mine)

I really liked this excerpt from this concise blogpost from some of the heavy hitters in research on GBV during war. While there has been increased recognition and desire to address sexual violence during war by international and national policymakers, these two problems–the tendencies towards fast & simple solutions we can ‘see’ and towards isolating GBV from other connected political issues–will be the next frontier advocates and researchers working in this area will have to cross.


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