Variations in Levels of Rape as a Weapon of War: A Comparative Analysis of Darfur and South Sudan

By Michelle Grimaldi

Abstract: Rape in conflict has shifted from a deplorable side effect of war to a strategy intentionally used to coerce populations. Recent UN action condemning rape in conflict as a war crime signifies a global normative shift identifying rape as an unacceptable characteristic of modern conflict. No definitive consensus exists on the causes of high rates of rape and sexual violence in a particular conflict. Studies have shown that incidences vary vastly across conflict, and do not provide any explanatory power. Without sufficient explanation for the causes of sexual violence in war, it cannot be prevented or effectively dealt with on the ground. This paper will examine the existing literature on rape as a weapon of war and apply the findings to a comparative analysis of two African cases. The cases of the Janjaweed in Darfur and the SPLA in South Sudan have vastly differing levels of sexual violence throughout their related but distinct conflicts. The paper concludes by clarifying a number of misconceptions regarding sexual violence in conflict, and identifying explanations of rape as a weapon of war from the two cases examined.

About the Author
Michelle Grimaldi is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at the Elliott School of International Affairs. She is in the International Affairs program, with a concentration in Conflict Resolution and a regional focus on Africa. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Stonehill College in Massachusetts. Michelle has worked in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State. During her time at The George Washington University, Michelle has pursued studies related to international peacekeeping, genocide, the dynamics of ethnic conflict, and international development.

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