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International Women’s Day: What Are the Consequences of Sexual Violence against Women in Conflict?

11 March 2014

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On the 10th of March WILPF attended an event hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) celebrating International Women’s Day. The theme of the event focused on Hidden Wounds: The Long Lasting Consequences of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict.

Held in the humanitarium at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva, the room was filled with members from permanent missions, NGOs and ICRC officials. Previous to starting the discussion, a collection of photos from ICRC collection were on display depicting women in conflict, these drew the rooms attention and fascination, a point which was carried on through the event.

WILPF and sexual violence in armed conflict

Sexual violence in armed conflict has long been a keen topic of WILPF. For this session of the Human Rights Council, WILPF is hosting our own side event on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on the 26th of March. Click here to view our Background Paper on Sexual Violence in DRC.

ICRC convened a panel discussion among four leading professionals in the field of sexual violence, each carrying varying expertise. Chaired by the deputy director of operations at the ICRC Pascale Meige, the panelists were led in a insightful dialogue about the differing consequences of sexual violence in armed conflict.

Psychological Impacts on Sexual Violence Victims

The first two panelists spoke about the psychological impacts of sexual violence on victims.

First to speak was Caroline Marquer, a clinical psychologist and mental health delegate for the ICRC. Caroline Marquer described through contextual and cultural situations, how victims endure mental heath reactions such as traumatic and acute stress and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from both the act of violence but also the repercussions experienced in their community.

The second panelist expanded upon the topic of stigmatisation within communities towards victims of sexual violence. Angela Veale, a lecturer from the University of York made the first mention of women who have conceived through rape passing the sigma along to their child.

Judicial Impacts

Cecile Aptel, Senior Legal Policy Adviser for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave an perceptive talk about judicial perspectives. Starting by mentioning how communities responses are typically to stigmatise victims rather then to persecute perpetuators.

By mentioning the importance of the International Criminal Court (ICJ) in its role in sexual violence through the prosecution of war crimes, Cecile Aptel similarly touched upon the importance domestic responsibility for prosecution as it is more assessable to victims.

Social Disintegration 

The last speaker was Caroline Eichenberger Fuhrer who works at the Camarada Centre for Integration and Training of Migrant Women. Caroline gave another perspective on the social integration aspects of women in Switzerland.

Caroline Eichenberger Fuhrer stressed the importance of language in society inclusion but spoke of the difficulties experienced by migrant women do to their varying degrees of education levels and types of employment that they take. This social disintegration led to the threatening to the status of their asylum visa in what she phrased this as the dehumanising process of asylum for victims of sexual violence.

WILPF thoroughly enjoyed the time spent at ICRC and is excitedly anticipating their next event, not only for the delicious apple tarts served after the panel, but the insightful and fascinating discussion.


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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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