Sexual Violence during War

Since the conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda, the research on sexual violence in armed conflicts has increased significantly.

Picture of woman
© UNAMID/ Albert Gonzalez Farran / CC BY-NC 2.0
Picture of woman
© UNAMID/ Albert Gonzalez Farran / CC BY-NC 2.0

Since the war in Bosnia‐Herzegovina and the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s, sexual violence in conflict has received increasing scholarly attention. While earlier research focused on documenting cases of sexual violence and investigating the topic from a metaperspective, in the last decade an increasing number of empirical, largely qualitative studies have been published. This paper critically reviews this recent literature on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) according to two lines of inquiry. It first examines the literature on the causes of CRSV, then surveys the research on its social consequences. Overall, the growing body of research on CRSV has considerably advanced our knowledge.

However, methodologically there remains a shortage of comparative, and particularly quantitative, research. Much of the qualitative research relies on convenience samples, which result in a clear selection bias. This hampers our ability to make more general statements about the causes and, in particular, the social consequences of CRSV.

Carlo Koos, What Do We Know About Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts? Recent Empirical Progress and Remaining Gaps in Peace and Conflict Research, GIGA Working Paper, No. 275, June 2015

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