The joint award of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor, and Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi survivor, is recognition of the grave issue of war-time sexual violence. Though rape has been used as a weapon for ages, shockingly, conflict rape was not considered a war crime until 2008. Even as men endure physical assaults in combat operations, women become victims of the other heinous physical assault by beasts aiming to traumatise weaker communities into submission. The prize should give more visibility to the horrendous violence, as also redress to the victims.
Dr Mukwege helped sew up vaginas of thousands of rape victims in his war-torn country in the past couple of decades. Moved by their plight — at times, genitals mutilated by gunshots and acid attacks — and the need to help the hapless women heal and get back to dignified lives, the good doctor has highlighted the barbaric war tactic by helping them and talking in international fora at the risk to his life. Nadia, now 25, managed to escape from her pernicious circumstances in 2014. And, though having lost her brothers and mother to the war on Yazidis, she bravely chose to speak out about her harrowing ordeal in an effort to bring the perpetrators to book, as also give strength to fellow victims.
As the world counts a year of the #MeToo movement this week, with no sign of weakening, these two warriors stand out as beacons of inspiration in the fight against sexual abuse, harassment and violence even in peace times. Interestingly, putting the focus on the criminals, rather than the victims, women are increasingly opting to shame and name the perpetrators by using the #YouToo. The rash of such exposes erupting on the social media in India of late, too, shows that there are not just wolves out there, but also some in sheep’s clothing. But the shroud of taboo and shame covering the scourge of sexism, patriarchy and misogyny over the ages is surely coming off, even as the struggle remains uphill.