2018 Nobel Peace Prize: Endeavouring to Eliminate Wartime Rape

Photo: AFP

Earlier this week, the world watched on as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, two activists dedicated to the elimination of conflict-related sexual violence.

Dr Denis Mukwege

A previous Jurist International ‘Defender of the Week’, Dr Mukwege has been internationally recognised for his expertise on internal physical damage caused by gang-rape and specialises in treating women who have been raped by rebel forces at his hospital in Bukavu, DRC.

Since its foundation in 1999 after the First Congo War, the Panzi Hospital has been able to treat over 85,000 women; including 48,000 suffering from complex gynaecological damage from sexual violence and gang wartime rape, and 37,000 with injuries not related to sexual violence (for example, fistula from obstructed birth). During 18-hour work days, Dr Mukwege is often able to treat 10 patients per day; making reconstructive gynaecological surgery his life’s work.

As well as becoming a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Mukwege has received numerous international accolades for his tireless efforts in treating female survivors of sexual violence, including; the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 2008, the Sakharov Prize in 2014, and in 2016 the Seoul Peace Prize. Also in 2016, Dr Mukwege was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

In 2012, Mukwege delivered a speech to the United Nations, stating:

“I would have liked to say, “I have the honour of representing my country”, but I cannot. In effect, how can one be proud of belonging to a nation without defence, fighting itself, completely pillaged and powerless in the face of 500,000 of its girls raped during 16 years; 6,000,000 of its sons and daughters killed during 16 years without any lasting solution in sight. No, I do not have the honour, nor the privilege to be here today. My heart is heavy. My honour, it is to be with these courageous women victims of violence, these women who resist, these women who despite all remain standing.” 

Nadia Murad

Currently residing in Germany, Murad is a Yazidi-Iraqi human rights activist focused on survivors of wartime sexual violence, given that she is a survivor herself. She is the first Iraqi to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Along with more than 6,700 Yazidi women, Murad was taken prisoner by Islamic State in Iraq, where she was held as a slave, beaten, burned with cigarettes, and raped. Eventually escaping in 2015, Murad gave her first testimony to La Libre Belgique, and was one of 1,000 women and children given the chance to participate in a refugee programme of the Government of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, which became her home.

Also in 2015, Murad led the United Nations Security Council through their first brief on human trafficking and, in 2016 spoke with international human rights barrister, Amal Clooney, about their decision to take legal action against ISIL commanders. Clooney stated that she believed the acts of violence and genocide committed by ISIL were a “bureaucracy of evil on an industrial scale.” In response to her work, Murad has received multiple threats to her safety, though has been vocal about how this does not deter her from her activism.

Nadia Murad is also the founder of Nadia’s Initiative, an organisation with a chief focus on assisting women and children rebuild their lives after being victimized by genocide and mass atrocities. This initiative was announced in New York at an event hosted by British journalist, Tina Brown. 

In September 2016, Murad also became the first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking at the United Nations.

Congratulations to this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureates! 

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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