Human Rights and Sexual Violence

Ending Sexual Assault and Rape

Rape, sexual assault and violence against women are severe human rights violations, yet they remain widespread around the globe. Although men and boys experience gender-based violence as well, women around the world are disproportionately affected by sexual violence, both during peace and wartime. According to the World Health Organization, more than 35 percent of women experience physical and sexual violence throughout their lifetime.

Sexual assault and rape are extremely traumatizing, with life-long repercussions for the victim’s health and well being. Women who have experienced intimate partner violence are significantly more likely to have alcohol-use problems, to suffer from depression, or to acquire HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, the prevalence of violence against women has adverse effects on economic growth and development. Estimates of the economic costs of gender-based violence in terms of lost productivity as well as increased health care costs range from 1.2 to 2 percent of GDP, which amounts to as much as many governments of developing countries spend on primary education.

How We Can Combat Rape And Sexual Violence And Improve Women’s Health And Well Being

Preventing violence against women, and sexual violence in particular, is crucial for improving the livelihood and well being of women around the world. Rape and sexual assault are often reflective of a persisting imbalance in power dynamics between men and women as well as of cultural and social norms in our societies. To overcome these obstacles:

  • Understand The Causes Of Rape And Sexual Violence: To find the right policy strategies for combating sexual violence and rape, we need to develop a better understanding of its causes and driving forces. For example, research has shown that rape in wartime settings is not necessarily deployed as a strategic weapon as usually assumed, but is used as a mechanism of socialization to strengthen unit cohesion amongst armed groups that recruit soldiers by force and abduction.
  • Provide Education And Life Skills Training For Girls: Engaging girls in adolescent clubs and providing them with life skills classes on sexuality and reproductive rights can successfully reduce girls’ self-reported likelihood of being sexually assaulted or raped.
  • Create Economic Opportunities For Women: Income-generating activities for women and conditional cash transfers explicitly targeted to female heads of households can increase women’s bargaining power within families and significantly decrease intimate partner violence as well as marital rape.