The Platform


The levels of sexual violence in Manipur, India is especially horrific.

Manipur, a region of India, is in the throes of conflict and insurgency, punctuated by the terrifying use of sexual violence as a means of control. The region has been scarred by more than 140 deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands as a result of ethnic conflict between the Meitei and Kuki-Zomi tribes. Women have been routinely singled out as targets, subjected to rape, humiliation, and abuse.

On July 19, a disturbing video surfaced online. It depicted two women, aged in their 20s and 40s, from Kangpokpi, a district largely inhabited by the Kuki-Zomi community. They were paraded naked by a mob of men, groped, dragged to a field, and raped. This assault took place in the Thoubal district on May 4th, with charges filed two weeks later against unknown assailants for abduction, rape, and murder.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decried the incident, labeling it “shameful.” India’s highest court took notice of the incident captured on video and issued an ultimatum to the government: hold the perpetrators accountable, or the court would intervene. Despite this, the first arrest was not made until the video went viral. Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh promised severe action, including the possibility of capital punishment, against all those involved.

Regrettably, this was not an isolated incident in Manipur. Reports detail Meitei mobs setting homes ablaze and subjecting women within them to assaults. Women are coerced into stripping naked under threat of violence, and in some cases, they are shot in the face, leading to death and disfigurement. The Kuki-Zomi community, constantly under attack, finds its women living in an environment of fear, trauma, and social ostracization. Many survivors, fearing retaliation and skeptical of the justice system, choose not to report these offenses. This creates an environment where justice remains elusive, and victims are left without recourse.

Manipur serves as a stark reminder of the devastating impact of sexual violence in conflict. However, the discussion must not be confined to just India. Internationally, women have frequently been exploited as weapons of war, subjected to horrific acts of violence. This trend sometimes escalates into genocidal rape – the deliberate, mass sexual assault on a particular group during armed conflicts as a method of genocide.

This appalling behavior is condemned by several international treaties designed to safeguard the rights and dignity of women. The Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention against Torture (CAT) all explicitly prohibit such inhumane treatment. Other treaties, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and various protocols of the African Union, provide important safeguards against gender-based violence.

However, the classification of genocidal rape under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide remains a point of debate among scholars. While some argue that it’s covered under the Convention’s existing definitions, others contend that it should be explicitly recognized. This debate notwithstanding, UN Security Council Resolution 1820 does categorize rape as a component of genocide.

Despite the clear messaging of these international agreements, ensuring full adherence remains a challenge. However, they provide a crucial structure for promoting gender equality, safeguarding women’s rights, and holding violators accountable. The systematic exploitation of women for political or military ends calls for unequivocal condemnation and immediate action. Only through a unified commitment from all stakeholders can the world hope to close this devastating chapter for women in Manipur and globally. The implementation of these treaties, education initiatives, and global advocacy for women’s rights are critical to building a future where justice prevails, and women are free from the threat of violence and harassment.

Tejaswini Kaushal is studying law at the Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, in Lucknow, India. She is keenly interested in international, corporate, tech, and intellectual property law. With a penchant for conducting in-depth analyses and critically scrutinizing complex legal issues, she has a track record of publishing well-received content on recognized websites, aiming to make a positive impact on society through her work.