"Anger and determination made me set off to Bosnia in the winter of 1992 – straight into a war zone. At the time, the media were full of reports about the mass rapes in the Balkans, but there was a striking lack of reports on any help for the traumatised women. As a gynaecologist in training, I knew they would have an urgent need for medical and psychological support. Together with Bosnian doctors and psychologists, in 1993 in Zenica we set up the first therapy centre for women who had been raped.
Today medica mondiale works with some 30 partner organisations to support women and girls in war zones and crisis areas around the world. In the last 25 years, we have given more than 150,000 survivors of violence new strength and outlooks in their lives by providing medical, psychosocial and legal support. Solidarity and sensitivity have always characterised our work, combined with our tenacious commitment to women’s rights and justice.
Together with other activists we have been able to put the issue of sexualised wartime violence onto the political agenda. With Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, in 2000 the members of the United Nations committed themselves to protecting women and girls from violence and involving them in the peace process. Since then, rapes have counted as a war crime. However, current conflicts show that resolutions alone are not enough. Sexualised violence is far from being banished. It is still very present: in Iraq, Eastern Congo, Afghanistan or here in Germany, committed by soldiers, militia, neighbours and husbands. Violence during war does not end when the conflict ends. We can see this in Liberia or Uganda, for example: after long civil wars, violence still dominates daily life for many women and girls.
One problem is the ongoing impunity: in war and post-war areas, but also in so-called developed countries. Even in Germany, only one fifth of all rapes are reported to the police and only a fraction of all perpetrators are sentenced. There is a lack of political determination when it comes to actually enforcing the laws that exist. Patriarchal attitudes and power structures are the obstacles to progress. It is gender injustice that makes sexualised violence possible and this injustice is already visible when it comes to education or earnings.
So, today there are still plenty of reasons to be angry. After 25 years, our determination also remains strong and we continue to support those who bear the brunt of conflicts and whose dignity is so callously violated. Only in this way can women gain the opportunity to cope with the violence they experienced and gain the strength to take up their lives again. And we all gain the opportunity to live together in justice and non-violence.
In our anniversary year 2018, we are starting a campaign against sexualised violence. Join us, so that women and girls worldwide can say: My body is no battlefield"
Dr. Monika Hauser