Anti-Rape Activists Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Photo from Nobel Prize’s Twitter

Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict, the Nobel Prize Committee said in a press release.

Murad is a victim of war crimes. She is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq. In 2014, the Islamic State systematically and brutally attacked the Yazidi population. Several hundreds residents of Kocho, a remote village where Murad lived with her family, were massacred. Murad, along with other younger women, including underage children, were abducted and held as sex slaves.

After three months of being subjected to rape and other abuses, Murad managed to flee. The abuses were systematic, and part of a military strategy, serving as a weapon against Yazidis and other minorities.

Following her escape, Murad chose to speak openly about her suffering. In 2016, at the age of just 23, she became the United Nations’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

Denis Mukwege is a Congolese gynecologist, who devoted large parts of his adult life to  help victims of sexual violence. Since 2008, he and his team in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, treated thousands of people who suffered such assaults. Most assaults that Mukwege treated happened during the long civil war that killed over six million Congolese.

Along with treating his patients, Mukwege founded a legal program that helps victims of sexual violence to obtain justice and created an approach to provide socioeconomic and psychological support to victims.

Mukwege has repeatedly condemned mass rape and critized governments for not stopping the usage of sexual violence against women as a war weapon and strategy. In 2012, he received death threats and suffered an assasination attempt for speaking out.

Mukwege’s basic principle is that “justice is everyone’s business.” He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticised the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war.

“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions,” the Nobel Committee said.

“This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is firmly embedded in the criteria spelled out in Alfred Nobel’s will. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both put their personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and seeking justice for the victims. They have thereby promoted the fraternity of nations through the application of principles of international law.”

This year marks a decade since the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution, which determined that the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict constitutes both a war crime and a threat to international peace and security. This is also set out in the Rome statute of 1998, which governs the work of the International Criminal Court. The statute establishes that sexual violence in war and armed conflict is a grave violation of international law.