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Early Warning Indicators


Every armed and violent conflict and disaster (manmade and natural) context presents situations beset with enablers for mass and conflict-related sexual violence. However, except in the case of natural disasters - conflict events do not all transpire overnight, and are often a series of events that culminate in overt violence. These series of events present indicators that can hint at the likelihood of the prevalence of conflict-related sexual violence. However, each individual context presents unique features, and not all indicators presented below are necessarily found in every conflict context. The list below is indicative and illustrative. 


  • Occurrence of violent, unconstitutional regime change  

  • Declaration of emergency laws in response to war, potential large-scale violence, manmade or natural disaster

  • Suspension of domestic laws and/or rolling back on international legal commitments to guarantee gender-based human rights and protection from violence

  • Exclusion of provisions concerning gendered experiences in peace agreements, exclusion of non-cis-het male voices in peace processes

  • Provision of amnesty for perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence / prioritizing peace without a transitional justice process

  • Electoral violence in contexts with a history of using sexual violence against civilians

  • Declarations of independence / affirmations of self-determination involving mass movements of population

  • Rolling back on laws / policies / international commitments to action and implement protections against sexual violence.  

  • Use of language that justifies sexual violence and rape to endorse an aim tied to an ongoing conflict 

  • Tacit / explicit encouragement for the commission of sexual violence and rape to further conflict aims.

  • Threatening the use of sexual violence and rape to intimidate populations into compliance / silence / abandoning resistance or opposition.

  • Abductions, kidnapping, and arbitrary arrest of women and non-binary individuals without reasonable cause or adherence to due process.

  • Threats to/reprisals against victims, witnesses, and court staff involved in prosecuting sexual violence offences

  • Use of torture and criminal intimidation as part of interrogations, during arbitrary detention, and in the course of imprisonment


  • Increased supply and movement of small and light weapons in violation of Article 7(4) of the Arms Trade Treaty

  • Unchecked escalation in the trafficking of weapons, particularly small and light weapons

  • Development / testing / deployment of nuclear weapons

  • Development / testing / deployment of weapons of mass destruction 

  • Conscription of children (especially girls) into armed forces

  • Militarized control over resource-rich areas, land, and other territory 


  • Inflation and scarcity of supplies paving the way for unrest

  • Increase in economic burdens on women and non-binary persons following the outbreak of hostilities

  • Increased involvement of women and non-binary individuals in the shadow war economy, namely trafficking, prostitution, and sex slavery

  • Increased vulnerability to sexual violence while engaging in trade for sustenance during conflict

  • Increase in demands for transactional sex in exchange for subsistence owing to limited supplies

  • Heightened risk of and actual occurrence of food insecurity

  • Disputes over shared natural resources

  • Expulsions and/or detention of economic migrants in border areas as punitive action  


  • Increased media repression and restrictions on freedom of expression

  • Increased violence against women and non-binary persons in the media

  • Propaganda targeting particular ethnic, racial, religious, political, or other social group 

  • Hate speech denigrating the women of a particular ethnic, racial, religious, political or other social group  

  • Incitement to commit sexual violence through concocted justifications for such violence

  • Misogynistic, inflammatory, gender-discriminatory propaganda to hypersexualize, other, or dehumanize a particular ethnic, racial, religious, political or other social group  

  • Circulation of non-consensual images and videos of incidents of sexual violence with the intention to encourage / enhance violence, incite tensions,  or denigrate communities

  • Erasure of particular ethnic groups and communities in historical accounts 

  • Use of media, films, literature, and other media outlets to spread propaganda or demonize a particular ethnic, racial, religious, political or other social group  


  • Increase in number of STIs and HIV infections

  • Increase in number of people reporting injuries directly related to the sexual and reproductive health of the individual

  • Increase in women/girls presenting at hospitals/health clinics

  • Increase in women seeking abortions, spikes in sale of contraceptives and/or abortion-inducing drugs

  • Increase in cases of unwanted pregnancy and self-induced abortion

  • Increase in the number of people imprisoned and/or arbitrarily detained, with increased reports of torture and other forms of ill-treatment

  • Increase in the number of sexual violence/rape-related injuries and/or being asked to perform traumatic fistula surgery or hymen repair 

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