Paving the way for survivors of wartime sexual violence

The Korean Council
26 February 2021, 3rd International Symposium
Restoring the Right to Justice and Truth

The January 2021 “comfort women” judgment –
Paving the way for survivors of wartime sexual violence to speak

Regina Mühlhäuser  Senior Researcher, Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture & Co-Founder International Research Group 'Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict'
Panel 1 Tackling Impunity of Wartime Sexual Violence

This ruling is groundbreaking in the way it listens to victims of wartime sexual violence, acknowledges the harm they suffered and that they have a right to compensation.

To date, this is not a matter of course. Much on the contrary, there does not even seem to be a “societal agreement” that sexual violence constitutes a crime – in fact, this seems to be true for most societies around the globe.

What do you mean, one might ask, ever since the 1990s, sexual violence in armed conflict has become clearly visible in public debate, research and politics; UN resolutions 1820 and 2467 mark the international community's willingness to address this problem; and international/internationalized Tribunals established sexual violence as crime against humanity, war crime and act of genocide?30

Indeed, these are crucial and successful advances in identifying, condemning and confronting this form of violence. However, by now it has become more and more clear that the phenomenon of sexual violence in armed conflict is complex, and we are still far from understanding what it is all about. And one “blind spot” is the persistent societal reluctance to universally recognize sexual violence as wrongdoing and crime.

Let me elaborate what I mean by questioning the specific nature of sexual violence in two steps, before I return to the judgment. ...

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