Prevention of Mass Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations in Asia-Pacific (PSVAP)

Widespread and systematic Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) has been recognised by the United Nations Security Council since 2000 (S/Res/1325) as a matter of international peace and security. Under the 1998 Rome Statute, it is identified as a crime against humanity, a war crime and an act of genocide.

In July 2010, an estimated 500 women and girls, boys and men were repeatedly raped by armed men in villages in the Walikale region of North Kivu and the Shabunda territory of South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite reports by humanitarian NGOs on the ground of the attack, it took the United Nations six weeks to respond to the violence. To prevent future such failures to protect, the UN has begun to develop an early warning capacity to identify crimes of SGBV and report situations of high risk to the Security Council.

But such early warning mechanisms must be based on rigorous knowledge of both the root causes and risk factors for mass SGBV. It is well documented that the gravest violence against women increases in the context of armed conflict, but little is known about why this is the case. Is ‘widespread and systematic’ SGBV primarily caused by armed conflict in general or by conflict in combination with other factors? If so, which type and phase of conflict is most associated with mass SGBV and which other factors – individual, organisational, cultural, and structural – lead to the mass incidence of SGBV?

These two explanations for mass SGBV, the presence of armed conflict and the existence of extreme gender inequality and oppression prior to onset of conflict, predominate the field. Yet, to date, we have little knowledge of how variations in the type of conflict and gender inequality contribute to SGBV crimes. This project will test and refine the two dominant and competing explanations for SGBV crimes to inform strategies for the prevention of SGBV where risk is high.

The project will look at three different conflicts in the Asia Pacific – Myanmar, Philippines and Sri Lanka – each with different phases and intensity of conflict in order to identify the factors associated with heightened risk of SGBV across countries, especially the relationship between endemic violence and gender-based discrimination against women and extreme cases of SGBV.