In this age of unprecedented communication and international mobility, the ugly truths of wars can no longer remain hidden and obscure. Journalistic reporting, documentaries, investigations, research and commissions of inquiry are exposing the violence of yesterday and demanding accountability and redress.
People are finding the voice to speak out and, increasingly, the world is listening. In particular, women are making themselves and their sufferings heard. Throughout the centuries of human conflict, armies have sexually abused and enslaved women and girls with complete impunity, in what some may have seen as the natural process of war; but the tide is turning. The international community, now more united in its aspirational commitment to universal human rights, no longer finds these abuses to be acceptable or inevitable. Rape and sexual exploitation of women in times of conflict should never be tolerated, let alone excused.
The brutality and viciousness of the sexual attacks that are reported from the current conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Iraq and Sudan, and the testimonies from past conflicts in Timor-Leste, Liberia, the Balkans and Sierra Leone are heartbreaking. Girls and women, old and young, are preyed upon by soldiers, militia, police and armed thugs wherever conflict rages and the parties to the conflict fail to protect civilian
We need to wage a different war, one against violence against women and girls and against the culture of impunity that protects the perpetrators and their accomplices. To some extent, this battle is already underway, but it is in its very early days. People around the world, shocked at the revelations from conflict zones, are becoming motivated and engaged to look for ways to end impunity and create effective legal mechanisms that protect women and deny perpetrators sanctuary from prosecution and punishment.
Within my capacity as the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, I have seen that violence against women in times of armed conflict is merely the tip of the iceberg. The problem is so deep-rooted and widespread in all societies – in times of war and in peace – that one is sometimes left with a sense of despair and helplessness as to where to begin. But the trajectories of women’s struggles to resist
violence and oppression worldwide demonstrate that violence against women can be and must be stopped. We must act and we must act with a sense of urgency to address the entire continuum of violence against women and the gender hierarchies within which the problem is embedded.
The Shame of War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Conflict bears witness through graphic photographs and powerful testimonies to the scale of sexual violence faced by girls and women in conflicts all over the world. It pulls no punches in confronting the reader with stories and statistics that expose the extent of these violations that define countless women’s and girls’ everyday existence. It also charts the progress made in
international law in recent years in protecting women’s rights and convicting perpetrators of rape and sexual violence.
This book serves to raise awareness and provoke action. I would like to end by echoing the powerful words from the preface to Broken Bodies, Broken Dreams, an earlier book by IRIN on gender-based violence: History will judge us harshly if, once aware of the nature and scope of this violence, once outraged by its injustice, we do not choose to act against it.
Preface written by Yakın Ertürk, Prof of Sociology and UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences
Read the book online in PDF format : THE SHAME OF WAR