Nobel Peace Prize Winners 2018: Sexual Violence on the World Stage

Sinziana Stanciu, ‘20

October 2018

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year to people or organizations that pursue peace in the world. This year 2 people were awarded the prize: Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege. Specifically, they were awarded for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict,” (The Nobel Foundation). This challenging goal has led to an increase of awareness not only in countries in conflict but also internationally. Sexual violence is not an isolated problem, and its use in war is tactical. The UN Secretary-General recognizes that which was exactly what Nadia Murad experienced and Dr. Denis Mukwege observed on the operating table.

In 2014 Nadia Murad was taken by ISIS, where she remained captive as a sex slave for a few months before managing to escape to Germany. Her story of sexual violence not only shows the atrocities of terrorism but also forces people to confront issues that are deemed uncomfortable. Sexual violence is a prevalent issue beyond Iraq where Nadia was captured, it is an issue that knows no borders. Murad is advocating for people who do not have a voice, to speak out against the violence she encountered. Her initiative is vital to ending global sexual violence; by getting other victims’ stories out into the world, they can all make an impact. Her book, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State was written in an effort to further spread her initiative by retelling her tale.

Dr. Denis Mukwege, “Doctor Miracle”, is a gynecologist aiding women who have been gang-raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His remarkable work has led to tens of thousands of women being treated in the hospital he founded over 19 years ago. His work has led him to become a women’s rights activist, transforming his hospital in the Congo as a resource center for rape victims, providing the victims a range of things, from legal aid to social services. Dr. Mukwege has been so outspoken in his efforts towards speaking up for sexual violence, so much that in 2012, he was attacked and forced to flee DR Congo. He later returned in 2013 to continue his work in helping women under the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation.  His service in helping rape victims in war-torn Congo has awarded him numerous awards including the UN Prize in Human Rights.

Both have each also been awarded the Sakharov Prize for human rights. If anything, their work demonstrates how driven motivation can impact the lives of many. Murad and Dr. Mukwege both had initiatives towards helping those who have been victims of sexual violence relating to war. However, sexual violence is not only an issue within war-torn communities. This is an international issue especially dangerous to women. In the United States, 90% of rape victims are women, and females of 16 to19 years of age “Are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault,” (Huffington Post). These startling statistics show how prevalent this issue is, shedding to light why the work of the award recipients are so impactful. By addressing this taboo issue of sexual violence, as a global community, we would be taking a large step toward greater peace and equality in our society as a whole.