Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any sexual act or attempt to obtain a sexual act by violence or coercion, acts to traffic a person or acts directed against a person's sexuality, regardless of the relationship to the victim. It occurs in times of peace and armed conflict situations, is widespread and is considered to be one of the most traumatic, pervasive, and most common human rights violations.

Sexual violence is a serious public health problem and has a profound short or long-term impact on physical and mental health, such as an increased risk of sexual and reproductive health problems, an increased risk of suicide or HIV infection. Murder occurring either during a sexual assault or as a result of an honor killing in response to a sexual assault is also a factor of sexual violence. Though women and girls suffer disproportionately from these aspects, sexual violence can occur to anybody at any age; it is an act of violence that can be perpetrated by parents, caregivers, acquaintances and strangers, as well as intimate partners. It is rarely a crime of passion, and is rather an aggressive act that frequently aims to express power and dominance over the victim.
According to World Health Organization, In armed conflicts, the breakdown of social infrastructures, the disintegration of families and communities and the disruption of responses leave women and girls vulnerable to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence, including rape by combatants and intimate partners or acquaintances and, at times, sexual exploitation by humanitarian actors.

The sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated against women in conflict and humanitarian settings is increasingly being reported and documented. This human rights and peace and security problem has begun to be the focus of international attention, with efforts being made to prevent its occurrence, to respond to the survivors' needs and to address impunity for those responsible.

WHO is a member of UN Action. UN Action unites the work of 12 UN entities with the goal of ending sexual violence in conflict.

UN Action activities include:
  • Country-level action: working within country teams and peacekeeping operations to build capacity at the country level.
  • Advocating for action: raising public awareness and engendering political will to address sexual violence.
  • Knowledge hub: creating knowledge and evidence to promote an effective response by the UN and its partners.

Many investigations brought forward incidents of abuse by armed militant groups who have also committed rape and other attacks on civilians. Since the government crackdown against militants in Kashmir began in earnest in January 1990, reports of rape by security personnel became more and more frequent. Rape most often occurred during crackdowns, cordon-and-search operations during which men were held for identification in parks or schoolyards while security forces search their homes. In these situations, the security forces frequently engagedin collective punishment against the civilian population, most frequently by beating or otherwise assaulting residents, and burning their homes. Rape is used as a means of targeting women whom the security forces accuse of being militant sympathizers; in raping them, the security forces are attempting to punish and humiliate the entire community.In some cases, women who have been raped have been accused of providing food or shelter to militants or have been ordered to identify their male relatives as militants.

There are no reliable statistics on the number of rapes committed by security forces in Kashmir. Human rights groups have documented many cases since 1990, but because many of the incidents have occurred in remote villages, it is impossible to confirm any precise number. There can be no doubt that the use of rape is common and routinely goes unpunished. Indian government authorities have rarely investigated charges of rape by security forces in Kashmir. While the government has claimed that inquiries have been ordered into reports of rape and action taken against the guilty, the Indian authorities have not made public any prosecutions or punishments of security personnel in any of these cases. In some cases, the investigations fail to follow through with procedures that would provide critical evidence for any prosecution.Although there is no evidence that rape is sanctioned as a matter of government policy in Kashmir, by failing to prosecute and punish those responsible, or make known any action taken against security forces charged with rape, the Indian authorities have signalled that the practice of rape is tolerated, if not condoned. Indeed, in responding to reports by the press and human rights groups about incidents of rape, government officials unfailingly attempt to dismiss the testimony of the women by accusing them of being militant sympathizers.

Various armed militant groups in Kashmir have also committed rape. Rape by armed militant groups in Kashmir is less common, but has been reported with greater frequency in recent years along with other violent crimes including kidnapping and murder. In some cases, women have been raped by militant forces as a way of punishing other family members believed to be informers or suspected of opposing the militants. In other cases, members of armed militant groups have abducted women and raped them after threatening or murdering other members of the family. These cases are difficult to document, particularly because most Kashmiris are reluctant to discuss abuses by the militants out of fear of reprisal.

Reports of rape by militant groups in Kashmir have increased since 1991. The reasons for this are not clear, but the increase coincides with a rise in other violent crimes against civilians, including kidnapping, extortion and murder. In some cases, women have been raped and then killed after being abducted by rival militant groups and held as hostages for their male relatives. In other cases, members of armed militant groups have abducted women after threatening to shoot the rest of the family unless she is handed over to a militant leader. The fact that local people sometimes refer to these abductions and rapes as "forced marriages" gives some indication of the social ostracism suffered by rape victims and code of silence, and fear, that prevents people from openly condemning such abuses by militant groups.