The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Nadia Murad, a Yazidi rights activist and a woman who was forced into sexual slavery, and Denis Mukwege, a doctor who helps victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both faced grave risks to their own lives to help the victims. Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, commented that “we want to send out a message of awareness that women, who constitute half of the population in most communities, actually are used as a weapon of war, and that they need protection and that the perpetrators have to be prosecuted and held responsible for their actions.”
In the year when women have turned the attention to sexual abuse in the workplace and at home, the award casts light on the regions of the world where women have paid a high price for war and conflict. The Committee said that both awardees have helped “to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.” Dan Smith, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) points out that “rape in war has been a crime for centuries. But it was a crime in the shadows. The two laureates have both shone a light on it,” adding that “their achievements are really extraordinary in bringing international attention to the crime.”
Denis Mugabe, a gynecological surgeon, performs surgery on women who have been raped by armed men and also provides free maternal care and HIV/AIDS treatment. Although the Second Congo War has been officially over since 2003, violence is prevalent and civilians are regularly targeted. He himself has been subject to threats and his daughters were held at a gunpoint. Nadia Murad was enslaved by the soldiers of the Islamic State who overran her homeland in northern Iraq in 2014. Unlike other victims, she insisted to be named, identified and photographed and her advocacy helped make the United States State Department to recognize the genocide of the Yazidi people.