Policy Briefs on Sexual Violence


15 February 2013

Sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings is increasingly recognized as a threat to international peace and security. PRIO and the Centre for the Study of Civil War have recently published a number of policy briefs on the topic of conflict-related sexual violence.

Two policy briefs from the Centre of the Study of Civil War, both written by Ragnhild Nordås and Dara Day Cohen, discuss sexual violence in African conflicts from 1989 to 2009. Sexual Violence by Militias in African Conflicts (CSCW Policy Brief 01/2012) examines sexual violence committed by African militia groups, finding that contrary to what is commonly assumed, governments do not seem to delegate the commission of sexual violence to militias in order to avoid accountability - when militia groups commit sexual violence, state forces also do so. The second policy brief, Sexual Violence in African Conflicts, 1989-2009 (CSCW Policy Brief 02/2012), outlines key trends in conflict-related sexual violence in 33 African countries, challenging conventional wisdom on the topic.

In Sexual Violence on the Decline? (CSCW Policy Brief 03/2012), Ragnhild Nordås summarizes the key elements of the debate that followed the 2012 Human Security Report, which made claims of a decline in wartime sexual violence. The Policy Brief points to evidence that has been put forward that speaks against the decline hypothesis. Nordås also warns that this focus might sidetrack the debate on how to mitigate sexual violence in conflicts, and highlights a more productive debate with focus on preventing sexual violence.

How to go from protection to prevention of sexual violence in war is also the topic of the two most recent policy briefs. In Preventing Conflict-related Sexual Violence (PRIO Policy Brief 02/2013), Ragnhild Nordås outlines several routes to prevent conflict-related sexual violence, such as changing norms, creating safer spaces, improving reporting, ending impunity, assuring accountability and mitigating sexual violence after war. In the PRIO Policy Brief 03/2013, Preventing Perpetrators, Inger Skjelsbæk offers an assessment on the possibilities of moving from a victim-centred focus to a perpetrator-centred focus when discussing sexual violence. Skjelsbæk suggests three decisive approaches to achieve a shift towards an emphasis on prevention, starting at the individual level, the group level and the cultural level.

These policy briefs were published on the occasion of the Missing Peace Symposium, which takes place in Washington DC from February 14-16. The symposium will convene a group of scholars, policymakers, practitioners, and military and civil society actors to examine the issue of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings, identify gaps in knowledge and reporting and explore how to increase the effectiveness of current responses to such violence.

You can follow the symposium live online on USIP's websites, or on Twitter, with the hashtag #missingpeace.