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Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict offers a comprehensive analysis of the causes, consequences and responses to sexual violence in contemporary violent conflicts. Every year, hundreds of thousands of women, children, and sometimes even men become victims of sexual violence in conflict zones around the world; in the Democratic Republic of Congo, approximately 1,100 rapes a day have been reported during the height of the violence, leading to a conservative estimate of 400,000 rapes in 2006-2007 alone. 

This study explains sexual violence in armed conflicts in terms of the conditions that put women and girls at the highest risk of (re) victimization throughout conflict cycles. This violence aims to humiliate male family members, who in turn, are even more silenced than women when sexually assaulted themselves. The result is the destruction of family and community life, and the utter collapse of safe space. There is a complex political economy of violence used by men (and occasionally women) who perpetrate this violence, including patriarchy, existing patterns violence against women and girls, global power relations among powerful, hegemonic males, their intermediaries, and local power contenders (such as allied and hyper-aggressive males). They use sexual violence against typically marginalized, illiterate populations to control illicit goods and conflict minerals tied into global networks of plunder and profit.

This analysis leads to a discussion of accountability, in particular, the case of child soldiers, who suffer a double victimization when forced to take up arms at tender ages and commit atrocities. In the aftermath of violent conflict, communities face questions over reintegrating perpetrators, including child soldiers, or holding them accountable, while also finding culturally appropriate methods of rehabilitation, empowerment, prevention, and protection for family members and communities. The book concludes by weighing the relative benefits and drawbacks of searching for justice through international standards of accountability (such as through the International Criminal Court) versus local mechanisms of reconciliation and an ethics of caring.

Sexual violence in war has long been a taboo subject but, as this book shows, new and courageous steps are at last being taken from local to international settings - to end what has been called the “greatest silence in history.”

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