An Excerpt: Battling Impunity Toward Rape in Conflict

With the dawning of the new year, I decided that I wanted to make a change to 4WomenWorldwide. Nothing drastic  – the focus will always be on women’s international rights. But, I realized, there are more positive stories out there that aren’t being told. Too often, we (humanity) get caught up in the negative (political mud slinging, the economy, personal relations, etc.) and only see one side of the coin (heads, for instance). But there is always another side.

In 2012, I am taking the California bar and am preparing myself, begrudgingly, for a time of less prolific writing on 4WomenWorldwide. I hope, however, to post as much as possible in an effort to (1) keep myself and you (the follower or the random visitor) updated and (2) focus on the positive. There is a place for the sad, heart breaking stories because they are too often ignored. But a balance is also important.

While this is my overarching goal for the year, this post is not the first of this kind. In January, my paper, “Rape in Conflict: Battling the Impunity that Stifles its Recognition as a Jus Cogens Human Right,” was published in the Gonzaga Journal of International Law. My goal with this paper was to explore the reasons this issue is allowed to occur at such an atrocious rate.

To say that I was ecstatic to have it published is an understatement. As a law student, it is an incredible honor to have a paper published in a journal, especially one that specializes in your passion. Below is an excerpt and a link to the online version. Please take some time to read it. And, as always, pass it on.

“Gender-based violence is, across the board, a complicated and multi-faceted challenge. A lack of infrastructure, the prevalence of corruption, and cultural barriers on a national level consistently thwart rape prevention from becoming a jus cogens human right.[i] Underlying all of these problems, however, is what many believe to be the largest contributing factor: impunity for the malefactors.

Even within the United States, rape and violence against women generally are not reported to authorities with a frequency that matches the national statistics of rape and sexual assault.[ii] And even when the crimes are reported, they almost always do not result in prosecution.[iii] A general sense of discomfort accompanies discussions of rape and sexual assault, allowing these issues to remain unaddressed. Rape is too often considered a “gendered” problem, a “women’s” problem that those unaffected prefer to ignore.[iv]

On the international level, the topic is generally treated in the same manner, and the impunity is based on prior social, economic, and cultural discriminations that lead to sexual violence when conflict occurs.[v] In the Congo, for example, years of war and impunity have exacerbated the lack of respect human beings generally and women specifically.[vi] “War, displacement, trauma, and family and community breakdown have destroyed traditional social and cultural points of reference, and sexual violence has become more widespread in society generally.”[vii] Four UN Security Council resolutions, the ICC’s Rome Statute, CEDAW, and the Geneva Conventions, attempt to protect women’s status as women, generally and in war zones, but it is simply not enough.[viii] The conflict in the DRC created innumerable rape victims, and the situation itself is re-raping women already victimized.[ix] Despite the high numbers of rape victims, the international community has not dispatched any aid worth noting. In fact, the UN itself admits that it failed to protect the DRC’s rape victims.[x]

To read the whole paper, click here.


[i] Breton-Le Goff, supra note 120, at 17-19.

[ii] Reporting Rates, Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), http://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates (last visited December 4, 2011).

[iii] Id.

[iv] Sexual Assault, Rape Myths and Facts, Roger Williams University, http://www2.rwu.edu/studentlife/studentservices/counselingcenter/sexualassault/rapemyths.htm (last visited December 4, 2011).

[v] Brenton-Le Goff, supra note 120, at 17.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Geneva Convention, supra note 60; Rome Statute, supra note 63, art. 7(1)(g), art. 6; CEDAW, supra note 88; S.C. Res. 1888, supra note 81; S.C. Res. 1889, supra note 76; S.C. Res. 1820, supra note 72; About Resolution 1325, supra note 69.

[ix] Eve Ensler, OVER, Huffington Post, May 12, 2011, available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eve-ensler/over_b_861159.html.

[x] UN Peacekeepers ‘Failed’ DR Congo Rape Victims, BBC News, Sept. 7, 2010, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11224656.

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