Nobel Prize Spotlights Sexual Violence: Awardees Call for Perpetrators to be Brought to Justice

Written by | Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Dr. Denis Mukwege and Iraqi activist Nadia Murad who both received the prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Both laureates bring attention to the use of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war and call the international community for an agenda to target the abuse including reparations for victims.


Dr. Denis Mukwege founded a hospital in eastern Congo that has treated thousands of victims of sexual violence in the country’s two-decade-long conflict. Nadia Murad, a Yazidi Iraqi activist, was kidnapped and sexually abused by the Islamic State militants in 2014 and held as a captive for three months. She is the founder of Nadia’s Initiative, an organization dedicated to “helping women and children victimized by genocide, mass atrocities, and human trafficking to heal and rebuild their lives and communities” and currently resides in Germany.


At the ceremony, Mr. Mukwege criticized the international community for being idle and allowing Congolese being “humiliated, abused and massacred for more than two decades in plain sight.” “I insist on reparations, measures that give survivors compensation and satisfaction and enable them to start a new life,” he said and added that countries should take a stand against “leaders who have tolerated, or worse, used sexual violence to take power. … This red line would consist of imposing economic and political sanctions on these leaders and taking them to court.”


Dr. Mukwege also brought attention to the fact that many armed groups are profiting from mining Congo’s mineral resources, some of which are crucial to electronic products such as smartphones. “As consumers, let us at least insist that these products are manufactured with respect for human dignity. Turning a blind eye to this tragedy is being complicit,” he said and pointed out that the Congolese government was complicit in the looting.


Both laureates said the reason sexual violence still occurred in the 21st century was because perpetrators were not brought to justice. “The fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals,” Ms. Murad said. “Young girls at the prime of life are sold, bought, held captive and raped every day. It is inconceivable that the conscience of the leaders of 195 countries around the world is not mobilized to liberate these girls,” she said. “What if they were a commercial deal, an oil field or a shipment of weapons? Most certainly, no efforts would be spared to liberate them,” she added.


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