By Prarthana Mitra
Modern human history has been ravaged by innumerable instances of sexual violence being wielded as a weapon of war and a deliberate military strategy. Women’s bodies have become part of the fabric of conflict, claimed Amnesty International in a new report.
As wartime gender crimes in Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, Chechnya, Nepal, Myanmar, and Afghanistan continue to garner global outrage, the Royal Swedish Academy decided to recognise two crusaders fighting against this pestilence in their own ways.
Who are the recipients?
On Friday, the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize was declaredly shared by Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who has campaigned extensively against sexual violence in Congo, and Nadia Murad for turning the global lens on Iraq’s women and activists who like her continue to be brutalised by ISIS.
The official statement by the committee read, “They have both put their own personal security at risk by courageously combatting war crimes and securing justice for victims,” adding that Mukwege and Murad have both “helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence”.
Speaking out, despite the trauma
A recipient of the EU’s prestigious Sakharov Human Rights Award in 2016 and the Council of Europe’s Václav Havel human rights prize, Murad has shown extraordinary courage in the face of trauma, recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.
She was one of the Yazidi (a minority community) women abducted by terrorists from Sinjar, Iraq, in 2014. A victim of unthinkable sexual violence, she lost half her family and most of her village to the jihadists who killed all men and those women they considered too old to sexually exploit.
In 2016, as UN’s goodwill ambassador, Murad urged Britain to follow Germany’s lead in allowing refugees from the Yazidi community into the UK. Her bravery in coming forward with her story and launching an awareness campaign among the international community, is reminiscent of Malala Yousafzai, who became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at 17. Murad, now 25, is the second youngest to ever win the coveted prize.
The river of hope
In 2011, Eastern Congo was touted as the rape capital of the world and the worst place on earth to be a woman. According to a tweet by The Nobel Prize committee, Congolese gynaecologist Mukwege dedicated most of his life and career in helping the victims of some of the most brutal cases of sexual violence in the DRC. In fact, he has been in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize for ten years, according to sources close to the secretive shortlisting process. Along with his staff, Mukwege has treated thousands of patients suffering from unspeakable damage due to such attacks.
Last year’s winner, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), congratulated Mukwege and Murad, releasing a statement saying, “Both laureates thoroughly deserve this honour through their incredible work to address sexual violence in conflict, and we look forward to working with them as Nobel laureates dedicated to a peaceful world safe from both the threats of nuclear weapons and the use of sexual violence in war, both fundamental violations of international law.”
This year, besides several non-profits, philanthropists and action-oriented organisations like the UCLA (who fought against Trump’s family segregation policy at the Mexican border), Donald Trump himself was being pushed as a viable winner of the coveted prize. Kim Jong-un and Angela Merkel were among other world leaders that people claimed were the Swedish bookmakers’ “favourites” this year.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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