In the 100-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize, only twelve women have received it. But in 2006, six of those women – Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire – came together to found the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Their vision is a non-violent world of security, equality and well-being for all. One of their key initiatives is a campaign to Stop Rape and Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Rape in conflict is not a random act perpetrated by individual soldiers but an intentional military tactic used to demoralise women and weaken and destroy their communities. Sexual violence was used as a weapon of war in the Rwandan genocide, in Sierra Leone and in the Bosnia-Herzegovina war, and in the present day hundreds of women are raped daily in Darfur.
The severe harm done to society by the use of rape and sexual violence in conflict is only recently beginning to emerge as fact, but the findings have already begun to influence policy makers. In 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda found that rape can constitute genocide. Rape in conflict has been recognised as a crime against humanity. The definition of sexual violence in international law has been expanded and it is recognized as a crime committed against both women and men.
However, to be truly effective, the campaign against sexual violence in conflict needed to be globally coordinated. The Nobel Women’s Initiative to Stop Rape in Conflict began at a conference convened in May 2011: Women Forging a New Security: Ending Sexual Violence in War. It sought new strategies to end rape in war and laid the foundation for an international campaign: The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict.
The Stop Rape in Conflict Campaign unites organisations and individuals into a force for change that is powerful because it is collective and coordinated. It calls for urgent political leadership and concerted international action to prevent rape in conflict, protect civilians and rape survivors, and prosecute those responsible. The campaign was launched with marches and events in Kenya, DR Congo, Sudan, Burma and Colombia. Using the #IPLEDGE hashtag on Twitter, thousands shared their own pledges of action within their own community.
The goal of the Stop Rape in Conflict Campaign is not merely to reduce rape in conflict, but to end it. By spreading the word, by raising awareness and political will and by mobilising an international community of committed activists, the Stop Rape in Conflict Campaign can achieve that goal.