International Women’s Day 2019

By Chiun Min Seah

On this 2019 International Women’s Day, we shine the light on Rwandan genocide survivors of sexual violence. Around 1 million people were murdered during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in the east-central African nation of Rwanda. Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped only within the time period of three months. Even after the genocide ended, the horrific repercussions of sexual violence haunted the survivors, including being stigmatised, faced with impossible situations such as unwanted pregnancies, and infected with sometimes fatal sexually transmitted diseases.  

In spite of the terrible consequences that these survivors have to endure, there is something that is unequivocally crystal clear. They are not broken human beings buffeted by brutal and despondent fate of humanity’s savagery. They are not another miserable tragedy that the world would conveniently forget about after some detached words of acknowledgement of their unfortunate circumstance. In the face of their hardship long after the genocide, these survivors have fought many internal wars to rebuild their lives with nothing more than their sheer willpower and indomitable resilience. 

IMPACT was formed with mandates to tackle issues relating to sexual violence during armed conflicts and human trafficking. One of our projects is the book And I Live On: The Resilience of Rwandan Genocide Survivors of Sexual Violence which supports Rwandan genocide survivors of sexual violence. This second edition is a sequel of the book The Men Who Killed Me 2.0 and aims to help give the survivors a platform to share their voices and experiences. 

Rape and sexual violence are not “inevitable by-products of war” and the trials and tribulations that victims and survivors continue to bear are exemplified in the book. And I Live On calls attention to the survivors’ remarkable strength, exceptional courage, and resilience in facing the taint of being survivors of sexual violence and people living with HIV through their powerful testimonials of the genocide 15 and 25 years after the 1994 genocide. Their stories are complemented by compelling portraits which Samer Muscati captured as pictures are worth a thousand words. After everything the survivors have lived through, despair and hopeless do not define their story. They choose their own ending and it is one of hope and infinite fortitude. 

All of us must realise and stand to fight against these issues, then one day, we could live in a world with respect and understanding, a world that is free of violence; and one where conflict-related sexual violence no longer transpires.  

Today, IMPACT chooses to honour all women in the world, full of courage, determination, and passion to strive for a better global society. Today, IMPACT especially celebrates Rwandan genocide survivors of sexual violence who are reclaiming their lives, integrity, dignity, and will not stop until everyone hears and acknowledges their experiences and chooses to act to prevent these crimes from happening again.  

Happy International Women’s Day and let us all #MakeAnIMPACT  together! 

Special Issue of the Journal of Trafficking & Human Exploitation is now available online!

We are very pleased to announce that the Special Issue on the nexus between conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking for sexual exploitation in conflict is now published and online!

The United Nations Secretary-General placed emphasis on the importance and urgency of addressing the nexus between conflict-related sexual violence and trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation in the 2018 report on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2018/250, 23 March 2018). Therefore, this Special Issue aims to study the academic and practical perspectives in the themes of the nexus between both crimes during times of conflict, with article contributions from academics and practitioners of different expertise and backgrounds. The articles in this Special Issue illustrate the diverse challenges when one probes into both crimes concertedly, despite the individual progress that sexual violence in conflict and human trafficking in the form of sexual exploitation have made in international criminal justice. This collection of articles in the Special Issue demonstrate the connection of both crimes as well as different expertise and backgrounds of academics and practitioners in order to provide a satisfactory understanding of the issues involved.

It is one of IMPACT’s vision to aim for a world in which human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence no longer take place by addressing these crimes in concert. With the publication of this Special Issue, it is certainly yet another approach that we are proud to say; us at IMPACT act and make a pact to #MakeAnIMPACT against human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict. 

We thank all the contributors to the Special Issue; Rina Ghafoerkhan, William Scholte, Farah Mahmoud, Milena Adamczewska, Patrick Cammaert, Rosella Pulvirenti, Elena Abrusci, Aimée Comrie, Patricia Viseur Sellers, Yoon Hee-soon, Rabia Akhtar, Anne-Marie de Brouwer, Eefje de Volder, and Chiun Min Seah. And also thanks to the publisher, Paris Legal Publishers and in particular the Executive Editor and Creator of the Journal, Nicole Siller.

Congratulations to Dr. Mukwege and Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation on behalf of the CRSV Network NL

Dear Dr. Denis Mukwege and the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation staff members,

The Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) Network NL (the Netherlands) wishes to wholeheartedly congratulate Dr.Denis Mukwege and its member organisation the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation aswell as Nadia Murad with the Peace Prize 2018, which you will officially receive today in Oslo.

In our attached congratulation letter you can read the individual CRSV Network NL member wishes for you and the foundation and our hopes for the future to end CRSV together.

Best wishes, on behalf of all members of the CRSV Network NL,

Eefje de Volder  

Anne-Marie de Brouwer

(Impact: Center against HumanTrafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict – Secretariat of the CRSV Network NL)

Universal Children’s Day 2018

by Chiun Min Seah

I see it in your weary eyes
Quiet plea to yourself to stay resilient and strong
I see it in your shaking hands
So small and deep inside, you are excruciatingly hurting

Life has been awfully cruel
Vicious explosions replacing the ringing bells of school
Barbaric monsters violating your innocence and body
Leaving you with stories that are heart breaking and stormy

You do not at all deserve this
You should be away from danger, learning, and laughing
But these ruthless realities of life seem to be your fateful abyss
Bruised body and soul send your crushed spirits packing

Take my hands, little one
I cannot erase the past and what’s been done
But I can empower you to rise from the ashes
You are not alone and you are not worthless

One day when you are but an adult
It is your turn to remind the young
That just like you, they are not broken despite the evil construct
But you are absolutely fierce to share your stories, one day no longer unsung

Children are the future of this world. They are the empty white canvas that we can either destroy or nurture, and teach children to paint with anything that they envision. We hold the responsibility to educate them between right and wrong.

What kind of world do we want our children to live in? A place with bloody conflicts and agonising traumas that could very well destroy their innocence, belief systems and principles? Or a place that is peaceful and free from harrowing atrocities like human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence?

We have the power to make a positive change. Every single person does, in their own ways. Embrace it, use it, and change the world.
IMPACT is doing exactly this, so join us and make an IMPACT!


2018 Summer School on Justice for Victims of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and Human Trafficking? Challenges and Opportunities

Who would think to attend a summer school in the midst of one of the hottest summers ever in the Netherlands? 16 Italian students, 1 Brazilian, 1 Singaporean student in the UK, and 3 Dutch students of which 2 of them are working full time. There was a good mix of backgrounds between participants and luckily, gender diversity was visible in the classroom. I myself, am a 56-year old social worker who found it to be very stimulating to be part of a group of young and intelligent students with very quick minds.

The first week we spent on learning a lot about conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). Specifically, what CRSV actually and precisely is and that it effects women and men equally because it disrupts societies as a whole. Anne-Marie de Brouwer, an internationally renowned expert on CRSV,  took us on a journey through the horrific crimes of CRSV that took place in a lot of conflict zones all over the world in past, present, and sad to say most likely also in the future. In the period of 1989 – 2009, CRSV was present in 129 conflicts globally. But there is hope for those who believe in change, visionaries, and changemakers.

There were a few examples of wars and conflicts which did not result in sexual violence and we can learn from that. We can also learn from people who want to make a difference and seek cooperation on many legal and non-legal levels in addition to people who speak out, that any form of sexual violence, abuse, and gender inequality have no place in any society. We also visited the International Criminal Court and the Kosovo Specialist Chambers. We read, discussed, heard, and seen so much in class and in our little non-Italian group preparing for our group assignments in the restaurant. Our group wrote a letter to Marie Mukabatsinda, a survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi that took place in 1994 in Rwanda. Marie was interviewed by Anne-Marie for the book “The Men Who Killed Me”. I have been in Rwanda in 2017 with Anne-Marie and Eefje de Volder and have met a lot of women and men who survived the 1994 genocide. I saw the strength and resillence of the people. I too witnessed the comfort they find in coming together and forming an alternative family because a lot of the survivors have no family left.

In the second week, we were educated on all the aspects of human trafficking. The acts, the means, and the goals of human trafficking look clearer and more precise. As Eefje de Volder – an expert on human trafficking, especially labour trafficking – taught us, human trafficking is not always as clear as it looks. It depends on which country you live in and the way human trafficking is perceived by the labour laws in that country. This does not change that there are international laws and protocols that offer opportunities for victims to seek legal or non-legal justice. However, sometimes it is very hard when the police or other organisations do not recognize that someone is a victim of trafficking. People are afraid to come forward because they may be seen as undocumented illegal immigrants who need to be put in jail and sent back to their country. Correct identification of human trafficking victims and perpetrators is very important but it is challenging in practice. The same goes for prevention of human trafficking starting in the countries where people come from. Be that as it may, there is reason for hope because of good initiatives.

We visited the Bureau of the Nationaal Rapporteur Human Trafficking. They do a lot of research and are independent from the government so they have a loud voice in what needs to be done to combat human trafficking. We also visited Centrum Kinderhandel Mensenhandel who work nationally and internationally with Terre des Hommesto combat sexual exploitation of children. They use unorthodox but effective ways to, for instance, find exploited children and to warn about online predators. And let me not forget the guest speakers, Malini Laxminarayan from the Mukwege Foundation and Rina Ghafourkhan from the Equator Foundation. Their presentations were complementary to the topics we were studying.

Although CRSV and human trafficking are heavy topics, we had a very good time during the summer school with lots of laughs, sunshine, and inspiration to want to know more and make a difference – an impact – in preventing CRSV and human trafficking.

Antoinette van der Kaa
Social worker at Sterk Huis