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Day 1: Changing Attitudes Towards Rape

25 November 2012

Subjugating women of the enemy or of ‘the other’, through sexual violence is a commonly used tactic, which implies that the women are no more than chattel.  This is as much true of inter-State Conflicts as of intra-State conflicts. Yet what was recently witnessed in India in the recent genocidal attacks by Hindus against Muslims in 2002 passes all belief.

Photo of indian woman

Reports of these attacks, especially of the sexual violence perpetrated contain details of unprecedented beastliness. Families of victims running for safety were chased by killer crowds. Not only did they kill the women, they stripped them, paraded them naked, raped, gang-raped them, pushed rods or wooden pieces in their vagina, beat them and then burned them.

The bestiality of the attacking crowds knew no bounds. The crowds did not desist from gang-raping a five month pregnant young woman or stabbing a nine-month pregnant woman’s stomach with a sword, cutting open her womb and severing the foetes from the mother. This pogrom has also been unparalleled in destroying evidence, because after torturing women they burned them alive. Never has there been this depth of perversion, sickness and inhumanness.

It took them some time to land in relief camps so they could not immediately reach police stations to get crimes against them registered nor could they get medical check up done mandatory for a rape victim. When they did reach police stations to get their First Information Reports (FIR) registered, the police did not respond positively. In the FIRs the police either did not name the criminals or crime of rape was camouflaged in non-legal phrases.

Ten years later in Gujarat, victims are getting justice. Interventions by various NGOs like organising human chains, or submitting petitions in upper courts made it possible. Special Investigation Teams were appointed by the apex court in India. A couple of ngos have gone on to support the victims and witnesses in courts.

Courts have pronounced sentences of rigorous imprisonment on the criminals. Since these were not ordinary crimes, as rapes were not ordinary rapes, the courts have taken cognisance of these and so pronounced sentences that run sequentially and not concurrently. So the worst criminals are imprisoned for 28 – 31 years.

Ten years later, the Muslim community has reacted to rape in a progressive way. Ayesha Khan, a journalist, writes: “Rape is a double edged sword, first leading to physical violation and second to social ostracization in most societies . . . Strangely during the 2002 riots, Muslim women . . . never betrayed the kind of shame or guilt that rape victims are expected to show. What was their fault? Why should the victim feel shame and guilt?  And so it was that many of them did not cloak their identities, and instead chose to come out publicly to demand justice”.

It is a dramatic step forward for the community.  It is the step that we, all women across the globe, will appreciate.

By Ila Pathak, WILPF India

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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