Throughout the history of war, conflicting parties, militaries, rebel groups, terrorist organizations, and even sometimes races to show their dominance have used rape as a tool to terrorize, punish and destroy populations. Under International Law, such sexual violence has been characterized as war crimes that are cheaper yet more effective than bullets. And the victims of such crimes are mostly civilians and mostly the vulnerable group of society, the women. The consequence of rape and using other forms of sexual violence as a means of war goes far beyond individual sufferings. It destroys entire communities, family ties, spread diseases like HIV and its effect remains for generations to come. The United Nations have pledged to treat sexual violence as the war crime that it is and not as collateral damage of war the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is stepping up in its efforts to prevent sexual violence as a means of war and also physically and emotionally helping the victims.
This paper deals with the sexual war crimes starting from the time of the Second World War, providing details of the rape of Jewish women in the hands of the Nazi military and the comfort women controlled by the Japanese military. Followed by cases of other wartime sexual crimes in Bosnia and in parts of South Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is infamous as the rape capital of the world. The paper concludes with the international recognition of sexual violence, violation of women’s human rights, and the role of the United Nations and ICRC in preventing such heinous war crimes.