Rape in war is common, devastating, and too often ignored, says a new editorial in the journal PLoS Medicine. The staggering toll of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 1991—5.5 million deaths, 1.5 million displaced people, and up to half a million victims of sexual violence—demands attention be paid to the unconscionable use of rape as a weapon of war, which has also been documented for conflicts in Burma, Sudan, and the former Yugoslavia, among others.
The International Criminal Tribunal recognized rape as a crime of genocide under international law in 1994, but rape continues to be conducted with impunity in many armed conflicts, leaving women and communities devastated. Rape is still largely ignored by the international community, the editorial argues.
"Medical journalists and editors, along with health care professionals, have the authority, the skills, and the audience to draw the world's attention to the brutality and intolerability of sexual violence in armed conflicts," say the PLoS Medicine editors. "Medical professionals are powerful lobbyists, whose recognition of the devastation could galvanize support for the work of humanitarian organizations and advocacy groups in documenting sexual atrocities and holding states accountable when human rights and international law are violated."
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