Photo: Josh Estey

International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Highlighting the need for a holistic approach to survivors care

News 19.06.2020

Twelve years ago today, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1820 condemning for the first time sexual violence as a tactic of war and as an obstacle to peacebuilding. Today, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we celebrate Right Livelihood Award Laureates whose work has been focusing on supporting survivors. They have engaged in making a difference for those affected by wartime sexual violence, with the aim of achieving systematic change.

Conflict-related sexual violence has long-lasting consequences on the lives of the survivors, while also destabilising communities and societies. In many cases, such violations are still never reported, investigated or prosecuted. This is why today and every day, we must stand by victims, survivors and human rights defenders around the world who have dedicated their lives to rooting out these crimes.

Four outstanding Right Livelihood Award Laureates have been particularly at the forefront of the fight against sexual violence in conflict:

2013 Laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege – A Congolese gynaecologist, human rights activist and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Winner;

2008 Laureate Dr. Monika Hauser – A Swiss gynaecologist and founder of the feminist women’s rights organisation Medica Mondiale;

2002 Laureate Kvinna till Kvinna – A Swedish foundation supporting women in more than 20 conflict-affected countries; and

2012 Laureate Dr. Sima Samar – Afghanistan’s current Human Rights Minister and pioneer for women’s rights in the country.



While conflict-related sexual violence has existed for thousands of years, its international recognition has been very recent. Dr. Mukwege, a world-renowned specialist in the treatment of war-time sexual violence, played a pivotal role in the adoption of a landmark 2019 Security Council resolution which called for a survivor-centred approach in the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence.

Likewise, Dr. Hauser’s has worked tirelessly to ensure social recognition and compensation to women who survived horrific sexual violence in some of the most dangerous countries in the world. Through her organisation Medica Mondiale, Dr. Hauser provides trauma-sensitive healthcare work, legal assistance, economic support, coupled with a deep political commitment to women’s rights and local capacity-building projects.

A holistic approach should also include survivors in post-conflict reconstruction, which is something that Kvinna till Kvinna advocates for. Today, the organisation works with over 130 local partners with the aim of carrying out projects in conflict-affected areas promoting, among others, survivors’ participation in the development of democratic societies.

Finally, justice must be guaranteed for survivors. Having worked closely with Afghan women and girls since 1989, Dr. Samar has been engaged in strengthening the rule of law and ending a culture of impunity also through her work at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). “I believe that reconciliation should not be traded for justice and that victims of human rights violations should not again be victims for short-term political gain,” she has said.

Today, more than ever, let’s listen to their voices and call to action!

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