Sexual Violence in African Conflicts, 1989–2009: What the data show

Policy brief

Cohen, Dara Kay & Ragnhild Nordås (2012) Sexual Violence in African Conflicts, 1989–2009: What the data show, CSCW Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: CSCW.

This policy brief summarizes key trends in conflict-related sexual violence in 48 conflicts in 33 African countries, encompassing 236 armed-conflict actors, including state armies, militias and rebel groups.

Findings from study area:

  • Sexual violence was reported to be perpetrated by a minority of armed-conflict actors
  • There was a slight increase over time in the share of actors that perpetrated sexual violence at a massive level
  • African state armies were frequently reported as perpetrators
  • Sexual violence was often reported when there were relatively few reported killings
  • Sexual violence at times continued at a high level in the post-conflict period


  • Maintain a focus on the prevention of sexual violence
  • Pressure all relevant actors – and especially states – to end their practice of committing sexual violence
  • Do not lose sight of conflict actors that are not especially lethal, as such actors may still commit sexual violence
  • Increase attention to sexual violence by armed actors in post-conflict settings
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