Rape, sexual assault, forced pregnancy and sexual slavery: these are all sexual violence. In repressive regimes and armed conflict, the military, secret services and police often use these and similar methods as part of their strategy to oppress the civilian population. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is used as a tool against women and girls, as well as men and boys – based on their socially-assigned roles or deviation from such norms (as in the case of LGBTIQ persons). Sexual and gender-based violence attacks the dignity and sexual integrity of those affected. Social norms often prevent those affected from talking about their experiences, and crimes are rarely reported to authorities, prosecuted or dealt with socially. The physical, psychological, economic and social consequences affect the survivors but also their families and communities.
International criminal law allows sexual and gender-based crimes to be prosecuted as acts of genocide, crime against humanity and war crime. In practice, however, investigations, trials and rulings fail to reflect the prevalence and magnitude of these crimes. This is due to gender discrimination being both a root cause of SGBV, as well as the reason impunity for crimes persists. Sexual and gender-based crimes’ depiction and legal classification as an individual, rather than widespread and systematic, crime fails to reflect its frequent nature and the political aim behind their commission.
ECCHR has worked to counter the silencing and trivialization of, and impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes since 2010.