Responding to Sexual Violence in Conflict: Fighting Impunity in DRC

Author: Dr Chloé Lewis • Resource type: Podcasts


Chloe Lewis, University of Oxford

Sexual violence in conflict once again captured the international spotlight earlier this month when gynaecologist, Dr Denis Mukwege, and human rights activist, Nadia Murad, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Responding to sexual violence grew exponentially in importance on international policy agendas over the past decade, with clear implications for operational and programmatic practice across conflict-affected contexts. The adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1820 (2008) – establishing sexual violence as a threat to international peace and security – marked a clear turning point in this regard. While pervasive across many armed conflicts, testimonies of sexual violence documented in eastern DRC were an important focus of such institutional developments. In effect, these experiences became somewhat defining of the nature of the harm, its victims and its perpetrators. Focusing on the ‘male perpetrator,’ this paper first examines how, why, and with what effect gendered and raced imaginaries became encoded in international peace and security policy. Doing so, it emphasises the role of institutional imperatives and political dynamics in shaping international policy definitions of sexual violence in the Council. Subsequently, exploring efforts to fight impunity for sexual violence in DRC, presentation foregrounds how, and with what effect, this clearly delineated policy definition obscures more complex realities in DRC.