International humanitarian law (IHL) expressly prohibits rape, enforced prostitution or any other form of indecent assault (article 27 IV GC, article 75(2)(b) IAP, article 76 IAP).
During the Second World War, the Japanese occupying power forced tens of thousands of women from Asian countries into a horrific organized system of prostitution and sexual slavery to serve the Japanese armed forces. In the more recent conflict in Kosovo, the UN peacekeeping forces’ engagement in prostitution was seen as a major contributing factor to the heavy increase of sexual slavery and trafficking of women and very young girls in the area.
“Gender-based violence is a consequence of the low status of women and girls in society. Women and girls are subordinated, devalued and discriminated against, to varying degrees, in all societies.
Armed conflicts exacerbate discrimination and violence directed at women and all recent internal and ethnic-based conflicts have illustrated this fact. Rape and other sexual violence against women and girls is used as a weapon of war. To end the cycle of violence, the equal rights of women to participate in the economic, social, political and cultural life of their societies must be promoted and protected.”
UN Special Rapporteur on Systematic Rape, Sexual Slavery and Slavery-Like Practices during Armed Conflict, 2000