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2018 Nobel Peace Prize Draws Attention to Sexual Violence Across the World

“To the survivors from all over the world, I would like to tell you that through this prize, the world is listening to you and refusing to remain indifferent. The world refuses to sit idly in the face of your suffering.” Denis Mukwege

This year, sexual violence has made headlines. It began exactly a year ago with the Harvey Weinstein scandal  and has reached political levels with allegations against President Trump and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. All of these scandals have been highly publicized and all originated from Americans. On researching if other countries have had a similar year in publicizing and discussing sexual assault allegations, the answer is shocking: for some countries it is so much worse.

Netflix released a documentary in 2016 titled City of Joy that followed a Congolese community that was rebuilding after a sexual assault attack. It was explained that a militaristic tactic used by invading soldiers and armies was rape and that many women are at a loss in how to move forward. The documentary focused on how some people dedicated time and resources to building safe centers for victims of rape, such as the Panzi Hospital and the City of Joy. The star of the film is being seen again yet but for a different reason: he is one of the winners of The Nobel Peace Prize.

Denis Mukwege is a gynecologist and surgeon in the Democratic Republic of Congo who founded the Panzi Hospital and devotes his time to helping those who have been raped. “For almost 20 years I have witnessed war crimes committed against women, girls and even baby girls not only in my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also in many other countries,” he stated.

Nadia Murad is a victim of sexual assault who used her experiences to talk internationally on human rights. She is a Yazidi woman from a northern Iraqi town that was taken over by ISIS forces and saw her family slaughtered when she was kidnapped, sold, and moved as a sex slave between ISIS militants. Since then she has traveled globally, given multiple awards for her efforts, and done much to further emphasize that this issue needs to be addressed immediately by all nations. “I hope that it will help bring justice for those women who suffered from sexual violence,” she reportedly told a Nobel official.

In previous years, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to people who made great efforts to work for awareness on nuclear weapons, provide better education to children, and fix political infrastructure in countries. This article is not about comparing previous Nobel Prize winners’ achievements or contrasting the sexual assault discussion in America versus in other countries. Sexual assault has been an issue for humans since before all these articles have been written, yet it is something that has been hidden away. The discussion is helpful; it is necessary even. It prompts us to think about something that is uncomfortable, horrendous, and affecting people worldwide. By awarding two people who are pouring in so much into creating awareness and encouraging for more to be done for victims and perpetrators, sexual assault is being labeled a priority. It means someone is listening.

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Mia Boccher
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