The Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege and the Iraqi activist Nadia Murad have been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Announcing the award, The Norwegian Nobel Committee highlighted the struggle of both to end the use of sexual violence “as a weapon of war and in armed conflicts.” In a context marked by the #MeeToo movement, the jury emphasised in its decision, the contribution of the two in raising awareness and combating this type of violence in an extremely difficult context.
Mukwege is the “main and most unifying” symbol of this fight, the committee noted, which recognises that his clinic has treated thousands of victims in the war in The Congo, and has denounced the impunity of the aggressors and criticised the authorities of his country and others for not doing enough against the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Murad, a member of the Kurdish Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq, was kidnapped along with thousands of young civilians by Islamic State (ISIS), a group that sought to exterminate this community and used the women as sex slaves. Murad, who was able to flee after three months of captivity, challenged the prevailing social codes, which demand that women remain “silent and ashamed” at the abuses suffered and showed an “uncommon” courage when relating her suffering and that of other victims.
The chairman of the committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, recalled that a decade ago, the UN Security Council passed a resolution defining the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war to be a war crime, and noted the importance of the #MeToo campaign to report allegations of abuse and the importance of speaking publicly of the problem.