I recently held a seminar on rape in war with military lawyers from across the world. We talked through a number of obstacles to prevention and elimination of sexual violence, but at the end of the seminar everyone agreed that the biggest of them all is silence. “We don’t ever get to have this conversation,” the participants agreed.
Unfortunately, this is particularly true in the countries most affected by sexual violence in war: Not only is rape not talked about, but many of those who try to address this terrible crime are attacked, often violently. On Oct. 25, unknown men carried out an assassination attempt on Dr. Denis Mukwege, and succeeded in killing his bodyguard, Joseph Bizimana. Dr. Mukwege is known for his tireless work in defense of women victims of sexual violence in the Congo.
Silence also reigns in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This week, Amnesty International launched a briefing paper detailing the continued silence about the rapes in Republika Srpska, almost two decades after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended. To the extent there is any attention to the widespread rapes during the 1992-95 conflict, it is focused on the perpetrators — though many are still at large. Meanwhile, the women and girls who suffered systematic rape and forced pregnancies are overlooked.
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