When should you ‘Call It What It Is’?

Enabling disclosure of sexual violence by Chris Dolan and Onen David

The international criminal law (ICL) system can only hear and describe a tiny fraction of what people experience, particularly when it comes to sexual violence. The ICL system not only makes it difficult for victims to disclose their experiences, but often misplaces, deprioritises and erases the sexual elements of violence under other headings such as ‘torture’ and ‘inhumane treatment’. This is what inspired ‘Call It What It Is’, a campaign designed to enable victims to freely testify in a system where sexual violence is better articulated.

Back in 2009, when the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University in Uganda ran its first-ever workshop for male refugees on the topic of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), a male Congolese workshop participant commented at the close of the day that ‘it has happened to all of us’, referring to having been subjected to conflict-related sexual violence. Similarly, a Somali participant reported that ‘if it happened to me, I would have to commit suicide’.

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