While the history of wars and conflicts is replete with systematic incidents of sexual violence against vulnerable women, modern-day wars have witnessed large-scale indiscriminate deployment of rape as a “weapon” of war by combatants. In recent armed conflicts — such as in the former Yugoslavia, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and Rwanda — the widespread use of rape as a tool of warfare has become a conspicuous phenomenon.
One striking difference between the use of rape as a weapon of war in pre-1990 conflicts and in latter-day wars is the emergence and “willful” transmission of HIV to the victims. Serious questions have been raised in the social science literature about the actual time of transmission and infection, and whether the “intent” of the perpetrators could conclusively be to infect the victim with HIV. Nonetheless, there is evidence from the victims’ accounts confirming the deliberate nature of these acts.
In her 2004 book, The Right to Survive: Sexual Violence, Women and HIV/AIDS, Françoise Nduwimana reported the testimony of one of the many rape victims during the genocide: