This case note documents the occurrence of sexual violence in violent conflict. It contains explicit mentions of different forms of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
Background of the Conflict
The Peruvian Civil War took place from 1980 to 2000, between the government forces and two armed opposition groups, namely the Shining Path and Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA). The conflict began on May 17, 1980 (Starn 2019), between the Government of Peru and the Maoist guerrilla rebel group called the Shining Path. From 1982 to 1999, the MRTA waged an insurgency of its own against the Peruvian state, but as a rival to the Shining Path. The MRTA and Shining Path also engaged in combat against each other. This conflict was known to have caused between 50,000 and 70,000 deaths according to one estimate (Starn 2019), and culminated in the death or disappearance of 69,280 people according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación 2003). The conflict was known to have displaced nearly half a million people, and enabled widespread violations of human rights by all three sides that included, but were not limited to forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, and torture (Bastick, Grimm, and Kunz 2007). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación 2003) recorded 11,500 cases of human rights violations (Bastick, Grimm, and Kunz 2007), and noted that the main victims were the peasant population. 75 per cent of victims were indigenous people (Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación 2003).
Prevalence of Sexual violence
Records show that sexual violence was committed against women and children by the government and rebel forces alike (Boesten and Fisher 2012). Although the Shining Path prohibited sexual violence in its ideologies, its members were reported to have committed sexual violence (Bastick, Grimm, and Kunz 2007). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2003) and Human Rights Watch (1992, 1995) noted that different forms of sexual violence were committed:
rapes and sexual assault was carried out in the course of attacks on rural villages and in detention; sexual slavery and exploitation was rampant in guerrilla camps; sexual violence was used as a form of torture in the forced recruitment of children by guerrillas and armed forces alike; and forced marriage, abortion and pregnancy. Further, violence against people across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum prevailed (Bastick, Grimm, and Kunz 2007). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2003) reported over 500 cases of sexual violence against women and girls. However, this only represents cases that were reported – there may have been several more that went unreported. Of these, 83% were perpetrated by state actors, and 11% by the opposition forces (Amnesty International 2004).
Basis of Sexual Violence
Testimonies presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission showed how soldiers and police used sexual violence against the local population to terrorize and torture, and in particular, how rape served as a weapon of war (Boesten and Fisher 2012). Women were deliberately targeted with sexual violence with the aim of intimidating and humiliating them for reporting human rights violations to the authorities, and for being women activists (Human Rights Watch 1992). Several women and girls were targeted with sexual violence as a form of punishment for being associated with the opposition (Bastick, Grimm, and Kunz 2007). Further, women were targeted for their ethnicity, indigeneity, and class status, as most perpetrators targeted village and peasant women from indigenous communities (Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación 2003). In some instances, young soldiers were forced to commit heinous crimes and violent acts in the name of their induction or training, and these acts included sexual assault and rape. In many instances, men were forced to sexually assault and rape women in a bid to reproduce and aggravate existing hierarchies based on gender (Boesten and Fisher 2012).
There were also several instances of opportunistic rape, oftentimes enabled by the breakdown of the security sector systems (Boesten and Fisher 2012).
Amnesty International (August 2004) Peru: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission – A first Step towards a Country without Injustice,
Bastick, M., Grimm, K., & Kunz, R. (2007). Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Global Overiew and Implications for the Security Sector Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces.
Boesten, J., & Fisher, M. (2012). Sexual Violence and Justice in Postconflict Peru. USIP. https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR310.pdf
Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación (2003) Informe Final, volume 1, 53: http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/peru/libros/cv/.
Human Rights Watch (1992) Untold Terror: Violence against Women in Peru’s Armed Conflict.
Human Rights Watch (1995) The Human Rights Watch Global Report on Women’s Human Rights.
Starn, Orin (30 April 2019). The Shining Path: Love, Madness, and Revolution in the Andes 1st Edition. W. W. Norton & Company.