Sexual Assault

Whether perpetrated by state actors or by non-state actors whom the state cannot or will not control, sexual assault and rape are a violation of women's human rights. Women are sexually assaulted by state officials while in police or other forms of state custody; they are raped during armed conflict and as refugees; they are sexually assaulted and abused by their spouses and intimate partners. In all of these contexts, women face significant obstacles in gaining necessary protection and assistance.

The stigma and shame associated with sexual violence - combined with societal norms that often blame the woman for the attack and condone the perpetrator's behavior, criminal justice procedures that put the victim on trial instead of her assailant, and laws that fail to protect her if she was not also beaten during the attack - all contribute to women's continued vulnerability to sexual assault. Advocates in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and around the world work to further women's human right to be free from sexual assault in a variety of ways.
Critical to these global efforts has been the growing recognition of sexual assault as a violation of women's human rights. States are obligated under international law to take effective steps to protect women from sexual violence, to hold assailants accountable, and to guarantee to women equal protection of the law.