From Past Till Present: Women Facing Sexual Violence By the Combatants During Wars and Armed Conflicts


Sexual violence and rape have always been used as the tactical and instrumental weapon of war against women. Unfortunately, women have always been the worst victims of such horrendous crimes during the wars of all times. From the First World War till contemporary armed conflict in South Sudan, the women have always faced the crimes, torture, and brutality in the form of sexual violence.  

First World War

The German soldiers raped the large number of women while intervening in the territories of France and Belgium. They committed the horror crime of rape and also killed a large number of women. The women of Poland also became the victims of German Forces’ crimes and also by the Austro-Hungarian troops in Friuli and Veneto. In order to completely eradicate the Greek population of Macedonia, the Bulgarian Officers planned out the strategy of mass rape and killings. Around 1,000 to 5,000 children were born to French women out of sexual violence and rape by the German soldiers.

Second World War

The worst form of the sexual violence against women that ever took place in the history was by the Japanese Imperial Army which initiated the most barbaric and inhuman institutionalized sexual violence with the narrative of “Comfort Women.” The basic strategy behind the sexual violence was that the woman was offered as a reward to the Japanese soldier who took part in the war. The women of Korea, China, and other South East Asian countries were kidnapped, tortured, and raped by the Japanese Army which later also formed the “camp station” of comfort women. The minors as young as twelve years old were also the targets of the brutal sexual violence. The Japanese Imperial Army has killed thousands of comfort women who got sick and their dead bodies were just left stranded. Those comfort women who escaped the military zones were later rejected by their homes in the name of honour and shame. Hence, Comfort women were blamed for the crimes which were committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in the name of toxic masculinity and misuse of power.

The Sexual Violence by Myanmar’s Military against Rohingya Muslim Women     

Rape or systematic sexual violence has been one of the strategies of Myanmar’s Military and security forces to led the genocidal campaign against Rohingya Muslim women of the Rakhine state in Northwest Myanmar. Due to the deaths of 10,000 people, around 70,000 people have migrated to safe zones for the sake of security and shelter.  The testimonies bolster the U.N’s contention that Myanmar’s armed forces are using rape as the calculated tool of terror against Rohingya’s Muslim women.

According to the U.N, the Rohingya is the most persecuted minority in the world. They have been denied the citizenship due by the Myanmar and due to this cruelty, they are looking for safe asylum. Living in Bangladesh with lack or no facilities and security make their lives even more miserable.

In 2017, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) highlighted the documented 53 cases of sexual violence against Afghan girls. To eradicate or control the sexual violence against children, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has criminalized the crime of pedophilia (Bacha Bazi) in the revised panel code which operated in February 2018.

South Sudan

The armed groups in South Sudan are involved in the heinous crimes of the “systematic sexual violence” against young girls and women. According to the report by the UN Commission, rape is now one of the military tactics by the local armed groups of the region.  The survivors of sexual violence have been  brutally tortured and have been raped multiple times with coercion. The women are also facing the horrors of sexually transmitted infections like HIV whereas, the pregnant survivors have been abandoned by their own families. The lack of medical facilities has added more issues in the lives of survivors. Most of the rape cases were reported in the villages as the military officers hunt down the teenage girls in such areas. One of the most tragic points about South Sudan is that the country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

Hence the above, case studies proved that women face the worst results of the armed conflicts and wars in the form of sexual, physical, and psychological violence and assault. Rape has aways been one of the systematic tools of exploitation since ages and is still in practice by the armed groups which proves that women’s lives are not moving towards peace and progress.

Anam Zahra is a Presidential Fellow for the International Foundation for Sustainable Peace and Development (IFSPD). Her research areas are foreign policy, women’s rights, international security, climate change, and far-right politics. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from University of Karachi, Pakistan.


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