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Conflict-related sexual violence

Conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) refers to sexual violence perpetrated against women, men, girls and boys in conflict zones. This includes rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilisation, and forced marriage. Preparators may be affiliated with a state or non-state armed group, including terrorist ones.[1]

Due to local instabilities, repression and survivors’ fear of reporting, there is a lack of reliable data on the prevalence of CRSV. The pandemic has also hindered monitoring of CRSV. Any figures are therefore likely to be underestimates.[2]

In 2020, the UN reports that sexual violence was used as a tactic of war, torture and terrorism in several conflict zones. From January to December 2020, it documented CRSV in states including Afghanistan (271 reports), the Central African Republic (221), Columbia (239) and South Sudan (193).[3] 

In March 2021, the UN said more than 500 rape cases had been reported in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.[4] It is believed such violence is common.[5] In 2021, the UN Population Fund in Ethiopia estimates there may be 22,500 survivors of sexual violence who will seek clinical care, up from 5,611 in 2020.[6]

Save the Children estimates that 72 million children, or 1 in 6 children living in conflict zones, are currently at risk of sexual violence by armed groups.[7]

The International Development Committee has also raised concerns for sexual abuse committed by aid workers and peacekeepers.[8]

[1]   UN Peacekeepers, CRSV, accessed 14 June 2021

[2]   Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), Conflict-related sexual violence and sexual exploitation and abuse, 30 September 2020, section 2.2; UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SGSVC), Implications of Covid-19 for the prevention of and response to CRSV, 22 May 2020

[3]   UN Security Council, Conflict-related sexual violence: Report, 30 March 2021, paras 12, 17, 21, 24, 48

[4]   Al-Jazeera, Ethiopia’s Tigray: Men forced to rape family members, UN reports, 25 March 2021

[5]   New York Times, “They told us not to resist:” Sexual violence pervades Ethiopia’s war, 1 April 2021

[6] UN Population Fund Ethiopia, Preparedness and response plan for the Tigray crisis, April 2021, p2

[7]  Save the Children, 1 in 6 children living in conflict zones at risk of sexual violence by armed groups, 18 February 2021

[8]   International Development Committee, Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector: Next steps, 2020-2021; ICAI, Sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeepers, September 2020

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