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Help for women affected by armed conflict

For more than 30 years, she has been committed to helping women who have experienced sexualised violence in war zones: an interview with Monika Hauser. 

Kim BergKim Berg , 28.02.2024
Monika Hauser, founder of medica mondiale
Monika Hauser, founder of medica mondiale ©

In 1993, gynaecologist Monika Hauser founded medica mondiale with the aim of providing support for women in war and crisis zones who have experienced sexualised violence. The idea originated in response to the violence inflicted on women in the Balkan wars. 

Ms Hauser, what is the role of sexualised violence in armed conflict? 
Sexualised violence is omnipresent in almost all armed conflict. It is part of warfare strategy. The victims are the individual women, but sexualised violence is also directed against the family environment and the entire community. The aim is to weaken, humiliate and destroy society as a whole. This is why it is so cruelly efficient.  

What are the consequences for women and societies?  
As we know from our work in general, sexualised violence can have huge consequences in terms of health and also from social point of view. These include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, physical pain and chronic illness. Survivors’ confidence in themselves and others is often shaken. Women withdraw from social life or are stigmatised and ostracised in their communities. 

The feminist foreign policy approach questions discriminatory power relations and seeks to take the interests of all social groups into account. Can this help prevent sexualised war violence? 
Feminist foreign policy should prioritise the needs of survivors of sexualised violence and specifically strengthen women’s rights activists on the ground. The aim must also be to prevent violence and overcome the causes of sexualised and gender-specific violence in patriarchal societies. The shift towards a world in which all people live in dignity and justice starts where feminist foreign policy is consistently translated into political action. 

What is Germany doing to counteract sexualised violence against women in armed conflict? 
In 2023, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock presented the guidelines for a feminist foreign policy, which includes the fight against sexualised war violence. This is something we welcome. But we must also address the structural causes of sexualised violence in patriarchal societies – something that has hardly been done at all to date. And it’s important for sexualised war violence to be documented and revisited so that it becomes part of the culture of remembrance of the societies affected. Victims must be recognised and receive compensation.