Global Resources

Towards a typology of wartime rape

Author: E. Isikozlu, A. S. Millard
Publisher: Bonn International Center for Conversion
Publication Date: Sep 2010

How can donors and practitioners conduct better informed and targeted wartime rape interventions that meet the needs of impacted individuals, families and communities? This Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) brief presents the progress made in developing a typology of wartime rape as a first step toward understanding the different consequences of it. Although rape is perpetrated more widely by, and against, different actors during war, this publication focuses on wartime rape perpetrated by armed groups against civilians. However, the wider perpetration of rape against other actors is included in the typology.

The following eight different types of wartime rape against civilians have been identified to date: rape by an ally; sexual slavery; rape as a military strategy; rape by a neighbour; rape camps; rape in detention; opportunistic rape; and targeted rape. This typology was produced through two phases of research: an initial phase (November 2008–May 2009) where a preliminary typology was created based on an examination of two country cases of wartime rape: Bosnia and Herzegovina, and El Salvador; and a second phase (September 2009–May 2010) during which the typology was refined according to data collected from a literature review on ten additional country cases of wartime rape (Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea/ Bougainville, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste). The typology was designed on the basis of a definition of wartime that includes a myriad of war dynamics surrounding and influencing the perpetration of rape.

The research demonstrates that the consequences of wartime rape are largely influenced by the type of rape perpetrated. Although there is insufficient data available with which to establish causal paths between the different types and consequences, this research shows that some consequences are more likely than others (depending on the type of wartime rape committed). Additionally, the typology shows that the consequences are not always influenced by the same characteristics, such as the motivation for rape. Rather, different characteristics and factors may influence the perpetration of the rape and its consequences (e.g. the relationship between the perpetrator and the raped individual). This brief outlines the different implications of these consequences for interventions by donors and practitioners. With further development, this typology could potentially be used to develop operational tools and strategies to protect vulnerable populations from victimisation, and to deter the orchestration and/or perpetration of wartime rape in the future. This research project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.