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Ending violence against women across the peacetime–wartime continuum

Sexual violence is easily the oldest weapon of war

Content notice: this article contains mention of rape, sexual violence, violence against women, genocide, and other topics readers may find disturbing.

In armed conflict, women are deliberately targeted with the specific intention of harming the societies they belong to, or opportunistically harmed, outside of a campaign, with no fear of sanction because the breakdown of the security and justice sectors provides an enabling environment. The devastation caused by war means that women have fewer means to seek redress, if any. And yet, precious little seems to have been done to address this violence.

The absence of a dedicated, binding treaty specific to ending violence against women and girls at the global level is a huge issue. Today, women’s lived experiences of armed conflict continue to be erased, side-lined in peace processes, and buried under hasty attempts at peace through amnesty that sacrifices justice.

One way to address this is by establishing a global, binding treaty to end violence against women. Such a treaty would require the rollout of legal mechanisms at the domestic level, the provision of survivor services, and the facilitation of prevention education. A treaty would lay the foundation for a minimum standard for the protection of women and girls from violence. This standard would bind all states equally. Law reforms at the state level would bring individual legal systems up to par with the global norm, and translate standards of prevention and redress into action at the grassroots.

A treaty to end violence can pave the way for a future in which violence against any woman, anywhere in the world, is acknowledged as unacceptable and actionable. Ultimately, a feminist future is one that is bereft of any form of militarized exchange. As we chase that dream we must be clear-eyed about curbing violence against women during both peace and war. A global treaty would go a long way to ensure that they “Stop Raping Us!”

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