Sexual violence, health and humanitarian ethics: Towards a holistic, person-centred approach

09 September 2015 Paul Bouvier

Sexual violence and rape in armed conflicts are widespread phenomena, with devastating consequences. Over the last thirty years, our understanding of these phenomena has significantly improved. Today humanitarian and health professionals understand better the reality, scale and impact of sexual violence on the personal, physical, social and mental health of individuals and communities. Rape is recognized to have a dehumanizing effect, as much as torture or mass violence. Major efforts are put into providing an effective and ethical response, with respect and sympathy to the survivors. Health and humanitarian assistance contribute to the healing and resilience of survivors and communities. Looking forward, programs must be centered on the person, promoting their autonomy and dignity, and integrating medical, psychosocial and socio-economical responses.

About the author

Paul Bouvier
Senior Medical Adviser for the ICRC

Paul Bouvier is Senior Medical Adviser for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Lecturer at the Institute of Global Health, University of Geneva. He is a medical doctor with specialization in pediatrics and public health. He has carried out research on child sexual abuse and developed programs for the prevention of sexual abuse. His work at the ICRC focuses on health and ethical issues in humanitarian action, as well as training humanitarian professionals in public health and ethical principles to respond to crises and armed conflicts.