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CRSV: Solomon Islands

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 Solomon Islands was previously a British protectorate and gained independence in 1978 (BBC News 2007). The islands were the site of ethic tensions. In 1998, these tensions escalated. Guales, people ethnically from Guadalcanal, the principal island of the Solomon Islands, resented the influence of settlers from other islands and their occupation of undeveloped land in and around Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands on Guadalcanal Island (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2007). Most settlers came from Malaita, and were drawn to Honiara by relatively greater economic opportunities. By the end of 1998, a militant group from Guadalcanal, namely the Isatabu Freedom Movement, was established (BBC News 2007). The movement also included other factions such as the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army (GRA) and the Guadalcanal Liberation Front (GLF) which was led by warlord Harold Keke.

By mind-1999, it evicted as many as 20,000 settlers. The Malaitans formed a militant group called the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) in response, and developed a rather strong presence in the Honiara (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2007). The MEF then staged a coup in 2000, and forced the then prime minister to resign. Australia brokered a peace deal that was signed in 2000, but a faction called the Guadalcanal Liberation Front refused to participate in this deal (BBC News 2007). Australia sent a peacekeeping force called RAMSI, which arrived in July 2003. In 2006, riots broke out, destroying a part of Chinatown and displacing over 1,000 Chinese residents. Honiara's commercial centre was reduced to rubble (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2007). The violence was finally quelled by RAMSI, and women negotiators played a key role in ending the conflict.

Prevalence of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence was used on both sides to the conflict, targeting civilians purposefully (Amnesty International 2004; Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat 2004). Whereas the GLF publicly announced its brutal attacks on Malaitan settlers, including rape, in order to displace people, the MEF and Malaitan police forces raped Guadalcanal women as acts of vengeance (Amnesty International 2004). Reports show that villages became camps during the conflict, where several women and girls were held and raped repeatedly, used as sex slaves, and forced into marriage (Amnesty International 2004).

Reports also suggest that female police offers reported being raped by their colleagues during the conflict (Amnesty International 2004). The RAMSI troops were also alleged to have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat 2004). According to a health survey of 300 Solomon Islanders, most interviewees reported knowing of someone who had been raped, and under half reported having witnessed a gang-rape. Over half, inclusive of women, reported having participated in “long-line” or gang rape (Amnesty International 2004). A record number of rape cases were reported to the police in the post-conflict period between January and June 2004 (Amnesty International 2004). Women and girls aged from 11 to 60 years of age were reported to have been raped by both the GLF and Police alike (Amnesty International 2004). While accurate, comprehensive data are not available, the Family Support Centre reported an increase in the demand for its services after the conflict began (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat 2004).

Basis for the Use of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence was commonly used by both sides to the conflict as a tool for intimidation. It was also used as a means of enacting revenge. Women and girls were subject to sexual slavery, exploitation, and forced marriages, as a means of ensuring their humiliation in their societies through the ascription of stigma. Sexual violence and rape were carried out as a means of exploitation.


  1. BBC News (2 April 2007) Timeline: Solomon Islands:

  2. Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2007) Solomon Islands Country Brief:

  3. Amnesty International (2004) Solomon Islands: Women confronting Violence.

  4. Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2004) Social Impact Assessment of Peace Restoration Initiatives in Solomon Islands, DFID

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