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Reproductive Health

Women War Survivors of the 1989-2003 Conflict in Liberia: The Impact of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence


Liebling-Kalifani, Helen, Victoria Mwaka, Ruth Ojiambo-Ochieng, Juliet Were-Oguttu, Eugene Kinyanda, Deddeh Kwekwe, Lindora Howard, and Cecilia Danuweli. 2011. "Women War Survivors of the 1989-2003 Conflict in Liberia: The Impact of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence." Journal of International Women's Studies 12 (1): 1-21.

Authors: Helen Liebling-Kalifani, Victoria Mwaka, Ruth Ojiambo-Ochieng, Juliet Were-Oguttu, Eugene Kinyanda, Deddeh Kwekwe, Lindora Howard, Cecilia Danuweli


This article presents a summary of the qualitative data from research carried out in post-conflict Liberia by Isis-WICCE, a women's international non-government organisation, in conjunction with the Ministry of Gender and Development of Liberia and Women in Peace-building Network, WIPNET. Analysis of research findings detail women's experiences of conflict and the serious effects of sexual violence and torture on their physical and psychological health. The paper also describes the omission of women from justice and rehabilitation processes. In support of women participants' views, the author's recommend that funding is urgently required for the provision of holistic and sustainable, gender- sensitive services. Additional recommendations are made with respect to health, justice and policy changes in line with enhancing women survivor's roles and utilising their skills and resilience.



"The rates of sexual violence were higher amongst former combatants; 42.3%, amongst women combatants and 32.6% amongst male combatants." (9)

"The most visited health facility for psychological problems and surgical problems related to war were the private run clinics. However, significant numbers utilised self medication, traditional healers, local health centres and district hospitals. A tenth of the participants had not sought any treatment at all for their psychological problems. Participants described government health facilities as not having the necessary professional expertise to handle the psychosocial consequences of war as well as the emerging epidemic of domestic violence." (11-12)

"It was also observed that the DDRR largely failed to meet a large number of women's and girls' needs compared to men's and boys'. Thousands of women and girls formally associated with the fighting forces did not participate in the DDRR for reasons such as misinformation, lack of knowledge and understanding about the process, manipulation by commanders, lack of funding, lack of political will to ensure a gender-based approach, shame and fear. Some of the women that did participate were said to have been harassed by UN designated officials during the disarmament phase, including being ridiculed or hit whilst trying to disarm. Amnesty International (2008a) reported that some women did not benefit unless they were prepared to have sex with their commander. The programme failed to meet the needs of many women and girl combatants and did not ensure that their participation was proportional to their actual level of involvement. Many women were said to have failed to fully benefit from the rehabilitation and reintegration phase because the programme largely failed to acknowledge and address stigma and shame as a barrier to their participation, as well as taking into account adequate understandings of women's and girl's war experiences (Amnesty International, 2008a)." (14)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Governance, Post-conflict Governance, Health, Mental Health, Reproductive Health, International Organizations, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against women, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2011

The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Girls: A Consultative Meeting on Mainstreaming Gender in Areas of Conflict and Reconstruction.


United Nations Population Fund. 2001. "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Girls: A Consultative Meeting on Mainstreaming Gender in Areas of Conflict and Reconstruction". A report from the consultative meeting held in Bratislava, Slovakia, November 13-15.

Author: United Nations Population Fund


A consultative meeting, “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Girls,” was held in Bratislava, Slovakia, on 13-15 November 2001. The purpose of the meeting was twofold: first, to examine and explore the impact of armed conflict on women and girls; and, second, to formulate strategies and tools to ensure that reproductive health programmes accurately reflect this population’s needs, specifically by addressing them through a comprehensive, gender- sensitive approach.

Keywords: reproductive rights



“The presence of peacekeeping organizations in post-conflict settings sometimes has negative ramifications on public health, again with severe repercussions for women and girls.” (UNPF, 4)

“Female genital mutilation is a contributory factor in obstetric complications and is often overlooked. Its incidence can increase in conflict situations when communities heighten traditional practices or seek to integrate with cultural customs of host populations.” (UNPF, 9)

“In post-conflict settings, the sudden entry of money and foreigners, and specifically peacekeeping organizations, heightens an already precarious situation for refugee and host populations...most peacekeeping personnel are men between 20 and 50 years of age...The demand for commercial sex increases sharply in settings with peacekeeping organizations.” (UNPF, 30)

“Women’s NGOs, in particular, need to be visibly involved to highlight issues of women and girls, whose culturally based gender roles often determine their needs.” (UNPF, 35)

“As has been shown women will invariably have taken on new roles during displacement, gender attitudes may have changed and it is vital that these advances are not lost in the post-conflict setting but rather are built upon in the rehabilitation of societies.” (UNPF, 55)

“Empowerment, as opposed to participation, is a feminist vision of development better suited to modern concepts of development...In the mainstream development discourse, however, empowerment focuses on entrepreneurship and self-reliance and not on challenging power structures which subordinate women.” (UNPF, 61)

“Women have used several entry points to transform the culture of violence and war to a culture of peace, non-violence and tolerance. For some, their entry point was to change the mentality and social roles, targeting men and young adolescent males, assuming that ‘since war beings in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defense of peace must be created.’” (UNPF, 113)

“Post-conflict societies and countries in transition face the great challenges of reconstruction and rehabilitation. They need financial and technical resources in order to meet the demands of rebuilding political, economic and social sectors...In disbursing funds for civil building, however, donors must take into consideration the gender dimension in all income-generating activities and development programmes.” (UNPF, 117)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender Mainstreaming, Governance, Post-conflict Governance, Health, Reproductive Health, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Year: 2001

If Not Now, When? Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Refugee, Internally Displaced, and Post-Conflict Settings: A Global Overview


Ward, Jeanne. 2002. If Not Now, When? Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Refugee, Internally Displaced, and Post-Conflict Settings: A Global Overview. New York: The Reproductive Health for Refugees Consortium.  

Author: Jeanne Ward

Keywords: gender violence, refugee, displacement, post-conflict, human trafficking


This report addresses gender-based violence (GBV) in refugee, internally displaced, and post-conflict settings through twelve country profiles: three each for Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The profiles include background information, GBV issues, GBV-related programming, and recommendations. The report focuses almost exclusively on violence against women and girls, and human trafficking is one of the main issues discussed. 

Topics: Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Refugees, Refugee/IDP Camps, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Health, Reproductive Health, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, SV against women, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Americas, Central America, South America, Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, Oceania Countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Colombia, Congo-Brazzaville, Guatemala, Kosovo, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Timor-Leste

Year: 2002

Sexual Torture of Men in Croatia and Other Conflict Situations: An Open Secret


Oosterhoff, Pauline, Prisca Zwanikken, and Evert Ketting. 2004. "Sexual Torture of Men in Croatia and Other Conflict Situations: An Open Secret." Reproductive Health Matters 12 (23): 68-77.

Authors: Pauline Oosterhoff, Prisca Zwanikken, Evert Ketting


Sexual torture constitutes any act of sexual violence which qualifies as torture. Public awareness of the widespread use of sexual torture as a weapon of war greatly increased after the war in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Sexual torture has serious mental, physical and sexual health consequences. Attention to date has focused more on the sexual torture of women than of men, partly due to gender stereotypes. This paper describes the circumstances in which sexual torture occurs, its causes and consequences, and the development of international law addressing it. It presents data from a study in 2000 in Croatia, where the number of men who were sexually tortured appears to have been substantial. Based on in-depth interviews with 16 health professionals and data from the medical records of three centres providing care to refugees and victims of torture, the study found evidence of rape and other forced sexual acts, full or partial castration, genital beatings and electroshock. Few men admit being sexually tortured or seek help, and professionals may fail to recognise cases. Few perpetrators have been prosecuted, mainly due to lack of political will. The silence that envelopes sexual torture of men in the aftermath of the war in Croatia stands in strange contrast to the public nature of the crimes themselves.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, Health, Mental Health, Reproductive Health, International Law, International Humanitarian Law IHL, Sexual Violence, SV against men, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Europe, Balkans Countries: Croatia

Year: 2004

Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict


Sivakumaran, Sandesh. 2007. "Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict." European Journal of International Law 18 (2): 253-76.

Author: Sandesh Sivakumaran


Reports of sexual violence by men against men emerge from numerous conflicts, ranging in time from Ancient Persia and the Crusades to the conflicts in Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite these accounts, relatively little material exists on the subject and the issue tends to be relegated to a footnote. This article ascertains the extent to which male sexual violence is committed in armed conflict. It considers factors that explain under-reporting by victims and lack of detection on the part of others. The particular forms of male sexual violence are also examined: namely rape, enforced sterilization and other forms of sexual violence, including enforced nudity, enforced masturbation and genital violence. The dynamics present in these offences are explored, with issues of power and dominance, expressed through emasculation, considered. Thus, attention is paid to ideas of feminization, homosexualization and the prevention of procreation. The symbolic construction of male and female bodies in armed conflict is also explored.

Keywords: conflict, military sexual assault, war rape

Topics: Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Health, Reproductive Health, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, SV against men, Sexuality Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2007

The Wrong Race, Committing Crime, Doing Drugs, and Maladjusted for Motherhood: The Nation's Fury over "Crack Babies"


Logan, Enid. 1999. "The Wrong Race, Committing Crime, Doing Drugs, and Maladjusted for Motherhood: The Nation's Fury over 'Crack Babies.'" Social Justice 26 (1): 115-38.

Author: Enid Logan


Women who use illegal drugs during pregnancy attracted intense public scrutiny and social condemnation during the 1990s. These women targeted by the courts and media are generally black, poor and addicted to crack cocaine. It is argued that the phenomenon of crack babies or children of crack cocaine-using women came about not because of a simple tragic interaction between illicit substances and a growing fetus but because of a broader conjunction of practices and ideologies linked with race, gender and class oppression, including the war on drugs and the debate on fetal rights.

Keywords: war on drugs, abortion rights, race, class oppression

Topics: Class, Gender, Women, Governance, Health, Reproductive Health, Race, Rights Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 1999

Physical and Emotional Health of Gulf War Veteran Women


Pierce, Penny F. 1997. "Physical and Emotional Health of Gulf War Veteran Women." Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine 68 (4): 317-321.

Author: Penny F. Pierce


BACKGROUND: Numerous questions have been raised about the health consequences to veterans of the Gulf War but most particularly to issues concerning women, who were deployed in unprecedented numbers. Little is known about the health consequences to women of wartime stressors, in general, or the environmental and job-related exposures specific to the theater of the Gulf War.

METHODS: A stratified sample of 525 women participated in the study following the war and again in a follow-up study 2 yr later. The sampling frame was stratified on component of the U.S. Air Force (active, guard or reserve), deployment (in the theater or elsewhere), and parental status (parent or nonparent). Measures included items concerning general physical health, gender-specific health, the "Gulf War Syndrome," and the emotional responses to war, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

RESULTS: Multiple statistical analyses were used to describe women's physical and emotional health at two time points following the war. Women deployed to the theater reported significantly more general as well as gender-specific health problems than did women deployed elsewhere. A cluster of common health problems included: skin rash, cough, depression, unintentional weight loss, insomnia, and memory problems. Women serving in the theater also reported a significant increase in several gender-specific problems compared to women deployed elsewhere.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest the need for follow-up of a cluster of specific health effects, including those concerning gynecologic and reproductive health.

Keywords: mental health, female veterans, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Environment, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, PTSD, Reproductive Health, Trauma, Military Forces & Armed Groups

Year: 1997

Rape, Torture, and Traumatization of Bosnian and Croatian Women


Kozaric-Kovacic, Dragica, Vera Folnegovic-Smalc, Jarmila Skrinjaric, Nathan M. Szajnberg, and Ana Marusic. 1995. "Rape, Torture, and Traumatization of Bosnian and Croatian Women." American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 65 (3): 428-433.

Authors: Dragica Kozaric-Kovacic, Vera Folnegovic-Smalc, Jarmila Skrinjaric, Nathan. M. Szajnberg, Ana Marusic


The first 25 Bosnian women admitted to the Zagreb Obstetrics and Gynaecological Clinic or its associated regional psychiatric centers were assessed using both clinical and post-traumatic stress disorder interviews. Most of the women had been multiply traumatized; all had been repeatedly raped. Psychological status was assessed for those women who were not impregnated, for those impregnated who received abortions, and for those impregnated who carried the fetus to term.

Keywords: war rape, torture, trauma, mental health, posttraumatic stress disorder

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Health, Mental Health, PTSD, Reproductive Health, Trauma, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against women, Torture Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia

Year: 1995

The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda


Cohen, Jonathan, and Tony Tate. 2006. "The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda." Reproductive Health Matters 14 (28): 174-8.

Authors: Jonathan Cohen, Tony Tate


Widely hailed as a leader in the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Uganda is redirecting its HIV prevention strategy for young people away from scientifically proven and effective strategies toward ideologically driven programs that focus primarily on promoting sexual abstinence until marriage. Although endorsed by some powerful religious and political leaders in Uganda, this policy and programmatic shift is nonetheless orchestrated and funded by the United States government. Pioneered in the United States in 1981, “abstinence until marriage” programs (also known as “abstinence only” programs) teach that abstaining from sex until marriage is the only effective method of HIV prevention and that marriage between a man and a woman is the expected standard of human sexual behavior. Numerous U.S.-funded studies have shown these programs to be ineffective at changing young people’s sexual behaviors and to cause potential harm by discouraging the use of contraception. The effect of Uganda’s new direction in HIV prevention is thus to replace existing, sound public health strategies with unproven and potentially life-threatening messages, impeding the realization of the human right to information, to the highest attainable standard of health, and to life.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS


Abstinence-only HIV/AIDS programs have no relevance for LGBT individuals in Uganda, as the government denies the very existence of LGBT individuals. This report recommends that “the special needs of vulnerable populations [including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons] are explicitly recognized in national and local HIV prevention policies and programs.” (178)

Topics: Gender, Health, HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Sexuality Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Uganda

Year: 2006


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