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Sexual violence

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • The proliferation of small arms in conflict and its aftermath, and usual impunity for the crimes, means that incidences of sexual violence increase.
  • Combatants often use small arms and light weapons to wreak havoc in the lives of women. In the course of various armed conflicts, women and girls have been raped and sexually assaulted by combatant forces. Small arms facilitate this violence: it wouldn’t be so easy to rape a woman in front of her family and community without a gun. Sometimes the sexual violence is opportunistic; sometimes it is used as a deliberate military and political tactic. Women and girls have been attacked in their homes, in the fields, or as they go about their other daily activities.
  • Law enforcement officials – police, immigration, customs and other security officials, border guards and sometimes paramilitary and military personnel – are given special powers to use force and firearms where necessary. Sometimes they use guns in violation of international standards, including by committing violence against women. Such human rights violations are more likely to occur:
    • if those responsible for gun misuse are not brought to justice;
    • if law enforcement officials receive poor training and inappropriate equipment;
    • and if there is a widespread lack of respect for the human rights of women.
  • In combination these factors can increase the risk that law enforcement officials will ignore gun crime against women and use guns to abuse women.
  • Peacekeeping forces, armed as well, can also be involved in sexual violence, sexual slavery, and human trafficking.
  • Regular police and paramilitary officers also commit armed violence against women in situations of civil disturbance that evolve into and out of armed conflict. Soldiers performing policing duties are often not professionally trained to act as law enforcement officials and lack accountability. In such situations there is a heightened risk of armed violence against women. In some cases, armed sexual violence against women may be used as a tool to repress popular resistance.