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Background: Darfuri Women Raped in War

Darfuri Women: Rape as a Weapon of War

Sexual violence and rape have become hallmarks of the lives of Darfuri women. Many women were raped in the torrent of violence that forced them to flee their villages. Sudanese security forces, including police deployed to protect Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and allied Janjaweed militias, have been implicated in acts of rape and sexual violence. Women IDPs and refugees report also being forced to exchange sexual favors for desperately needed goods and services. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has identified "high numbers of… mass rapes and other forms of extremely serious gender violence."

Mass rapes in Darfur effectively terrorize the people, break their will, and destroy the fabric of society. In addition to causing horrific mental and physical trauma, rape has serious social and economic consequences in Darfurian society, often making the victim ineligible for marriage and causing her to be ostracized by the community and even her own family.

Forty percent of women interviewed in three villages in Darfur reported in PHR's study, Darfur: Assault on Survival (pdf), that they had either been a victim of or a witness to sexual assault during the attacks on their villages. Rape is a crime against humanity and its widespread use in the conflict by the Janjaweed militias in concert with the Government of Sudan is also well documented in the report The Use Of Rape As A Weapon Of War In The Conflict In Darfur, Sudan (pdf).

In refugee camps, the risk of violence is still all-too-real—many are assaulted when leaving camps to gather the wood they need to cook food for their families. In November 2008, Physicians for Human Rights sent a team of three physicians and a human rights investigator to eastern Chad to interview Darfuri refugee women about how their lives have been affected by this violence.

Nowhere to Turn: Failure to Protect,Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women (pdf) is our report documenting the scope and long-term impact of rape and other sexual violence experienced by these women. This scientific study, conducted in partnership with Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), corroborates women’s accounts of rape and other crimes against humanity that they have experienced in Darfur, as well as rape and deprivations of basic needs in refugee camps in Chad.

“Women who report being raped are stigmatized, and remain trapped in places of perpetual insecurity. There’s no one to stop the rapes, no one to turn to for justice for past or ongoing crimes, and little psycho-social support to address their prolonged and unimaginable traumas.” - PHR Deputy Director Susannah Sirkin

In addition to these investigations, PHR has held a series of training sessions in Khartoum and Darfur on the proper documentation and treatment of sexual violence for doctors, lawyers and mental health professionals. Partnering with a Sudanese organization, the Amel Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, PHR brought a multidisciplinary team of lawyers, physicians and psychologists to work with Amel Center staff in training local professionals and officials on international standards for documenting rape, methods for treating victims and how to cope with issues of secondary trauma and burnout among staff. PHR is also advocating for the amendment of Sudanese laws and procedures that intimidate women from reporting rape or seeking medical or psychological care, threaten the rape victims with charges of adultery and make it nearly impossible to gain a rape conviction.

Read the Reports

PHR's Darfur Survival Campaign has mobilized health professionals, students, and members of the general public to press for urgently needed security in Darfur. PHR is a member of the Save Darfur campaign.