Sexual violence in war time is a grave and dehumanizing act. From ancient wars to modern conflicts, as populations suffer the pang of guns, women and other vulnerable groups endure untold additional harms. These harms include, but arenot limited to sexual violence, manifesting as coerced undressing, gang rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, involuntary abortion, compulsory sterilization and undesirable prostitution.  They have left behind indelible mental and physical scars on the victims thereby violating their fundamental human rights. Côte d’Ivoirecould not escape this sad reality during the country’s armed conflicts as many women were subjected to sexual atrocities. International Jurisprudence and United Nations Resolutions prescribed that such crimes vest on victims the right to rehabilitation. Therefore, this research examined the effectiveness of the rehabilitative measures put in place for the female victims of sexual violence in the Ivorian Western region armed conflicts from 2002 to 2012.
 The study adopted a qualitative design employing semi-structured interviews guide to collect information from victims, witnesses and government officials of Western Côte d’Ivoire. Purposive sampling and snowball techniques were adopted in the selection of respondents facilitated by the officials of the Ivorian Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Data were content-analyzed and presented thematically with victimology, inevitability of sexual violence in armed conflicts and feminism serving as theoretical frameworks.
The findings showed that the modus operandi of the Ivorian fighters in the perpetration of sexual violence ranged from forced separation of couples to gang rape in village rape houses, from roadblock rapes to sacrificial rapes. The victims who included infants, teenagers, and old women were traumatized, polyvictimized and revictimized. Many of them vented their feelings through anger, self-defense, isolation and suicide. Both international and local communities responded to the victims’ plight with the Ivoirian Government providing legislative, judicial, administrative and social reparative measures. Yet, these responses were inadequate and fraught with challenges such as the non-implementation of international treaties, flaws in the Ivorian  laws, under-reporting of crimes,poorly conducted investigations, denial  of victims’  rights by the traditional justice system, and lack of access by  some of the victims to the reparative bodies.
The study concluded that the haphazard implementation of rehabilitative programs had left the victims traumatized and ostracized from their families and communities as they are unable to engage in regular community affairs. Thus, the thesis recommended that the United Nations monitor the rule of law in the country. The Executive, through its Ministries of Women Affairs and Defense should ensure that reparative machineries be brought closer to the victims. The Legislature needs to enact laws affirming the UN guidelines for the compensation of victims and the Judiciary should train its personnel to deal appropriately with the sensitive nature of sexual violence. Côte d’Ivoire and the international community need to ensure that the effective rehabilitation of victims is attained.

1.1       Background to the Study
Sexual violence is the most common form of gender violence. It is considered by many societies as a gross violation of women’s rights. Sexual violence perpetrated in times of peace is aggravated in times of violent conflicts.[1] From ancient wars to modern conflicts, the dehumanization and chastisement of a conquered people have included sexual assault against the enemy’s women, and sometimes its men. However, there are more incidents of women subjected to sexual violence in armed conflicts than men. The evil is perpetrated at various levels, macro, meso, and micro.[2] Some eminent scholars, such as Heineman and Vikman, assent that sexual violence is inevitable in all armed conflicts and as soon as war starts, women and girls are targeted.[3]
Wartime Sexual violence against women encompasses various forms such as coerced undressing, forced nudity, rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, unwanted pregnancy, forced marriage, involuntary abortion, compulsory sterilization and undesirable prostitution.[4] Fighters and other individuals use the availability of arms as an “opportunity” during the breakdown of rules and social norms to attack women of all ages and walks of life including babies, girls, and women as old as eighty years.[5]
It has been observed that the effects of these atrocities on the lives of women persist. For victims of sexual violence in armed conflicts, when the guns are silent, their war continues as they struggle with both physical and psychological injuries.[6] Assessing the overwhelming effects of this unbearable situation, Cammaert strongly declared that “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”[7] Similarly, Ban Ki-Moon affirmed that “Violence against women is a crime against humanity, no crime more brutal.”[8]  Thus, national, regional and international bodies are making some efforts to combat the scourge but the perpetration is still visible in almost all conflicts in the world.
It is within this confused state of affairs in conflicts that the Côte D’Ivoire (CI) crisis occurred.  It was ten years of political unrest, escalating inter-ethnic tensions and violence that marred Côte d’Ivoire’s former reputation for stability and threw the country into a number of crises.  There were two waves of armed conflicts, one set off in 2002 and the other, an aftermath of the presidential elections in 2010. Both led to massive population disturbances, displacing about thousands of people on each occasion.[9] During the conflicts, fighters assaulted several women sexually. The worst-hit areas were the western administrative regions of Cavally, Guenon, and Tonpki, that had the highest concentration of arms. It was often referred to as the “Wild West” by Non-governmental Organizations and journalists.[10]  Women endured the hardest of the conflicts with the presence of fighters on all sides including mercenaries from neighboring countries especially Liberia. Usually, women’s fate was either to be killed or to be raped.
According to reports by several international and national NGOs,[11] sexual violence on women trapped in the Ivorian conflict zones was not only unremitting, but became so pervasive and systematic as to have reached dreadful levels of brutality and inhumanity. Higonnet reported that victims spoke of brutal sexual assaults on wives, sisters and daughters, that husbands, brothers and fathers were forced to watch or commit incest. Some were pulled off from transport vehicles and raped en masse. Fighters from both sides had also inserted guns, sticks and other objects into their victims’ genitals. Numerous women were captured and subjected to sexual slavery in rebel camps where they endured different forms of sexual abuse over prolonged periods of time. Resistance to captors was commonly met with awful punishments or death. Some sex slaves, daunted by their captors and other circumstances, felt helpless to escape their life of sexual slavery.[12] Also, the period of active armed conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire is over, however, Human Rights Watch disclosed that there are still cases of sexual violence related to the Ivorian armed conflicts perpetrated by former soldiers, even by peacekeepers.[13]
To address this situation, the Ivorian Government took some legislative and administrative measures. Also, the country adopted a four-year (2008-2012) action plan with regards to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. The UN resolution was the first to address the impact of conflict on women during the conflicts and post conflicts periods. The resolution called on all states to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse.[14] Notwithstanding those efforts, it seems that the measures remain mere resolutions leaving a big gap between de jure and de facto. In Cote d’Ivoire, the war may be over for the majority of the population but for the victims of sexual violence there is no difference.[15]

[1] Heineman, Elizabeth, Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones: From the Ancient World to the Era of Human  Rights, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).
[2]  Ibid
[3]  Heineman, Elizabeth, Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, From the Ancient World to the Era of Human Rights,  (University of Pennsylvania Press 2011); Vikman,  Elisabeth, Ancient Origins: Sexual Violence in Warfare, (Routledge,  Taylor & Francis Group, 2005).
[4]  Kundrus, B. & Mühlhäuser,R. & Zipfel, G. The Pervasiveness of Sexual Violence in Wartime. (A workshop by International Research Group Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict, Hamburg Institute for Social Research,  2008).
[5]  Ibid
[6]  Jones, Ann, War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women and the unseen Consequences of Conflict, (Metropolitan Books, 2010);  Leatherman, Janie, Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict,  (Polity, 2011).
[7]   Cammaert, Patrick, Commander of the United Nations Mission,  peacekeeping forces in the Eastern  Democratic Republic   of Congo (MONUC, 2008)
[8]     Ban Ki- Moon,  No crime more brutal, (New York Times, 2009).
[9]   Human Rights Watch, Trapped Between Two Wars : Violence Against Civilians in Western Côte D'Ivoire,  (Human Rights Watch  Report, 2003)
[10]  Human Rights Watch, Afraid and Forgotten, Lawlessness, Rape, and Impunity in Western Côte d’Ivoire , (Human Rights watch Report, 2010); Henderson, Artis, Lawlessness reigns in Ivory Coast's 'Wild West' , (Associated Press Bostom, 2010).
[11]  International Rescue Committee, Human Right Watch, Amnesty International, United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire ,  International Federation of Human Rights, Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Organizations known as the Regroupement des Acteurs Ivoriens des Droits de l’Homme.
[12]  Higonnet, E. “My Heart is Cut: Sexual Violence by Rebels and Pro-government Forces in Côte d’Ivoire ” (Human Rights Watch Report, 2007).
[13]  Pender, Elizabeth, Côte d’Ivoire : Peace Process Fails to Address Sexual Violence, (International Rescue Committee, 2007).
[14]  Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, United Nations Office, Cote d'Ivoire National Action Plan,(PeaceWomen, 2007).
[15]  Amnesty International, Sexual violence and other human rights abuses in Côte d’Ivoire  must stop, (Amnesty International Report, New York , 2011).

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