From Colombia to Syria justice is possible for survivors of sexual violence in war

Last Updated: June 19, 2024By

Empowering Survivors: A Global Effort to Right Wrongs


In every corner of the globe, women and girls face heinous violations of their basic human rights. One of the most abhorrent forms of violence they endure is sexual abuse in times of conflict. For countless individuals, living through war means facing the horrors of sexual torture, rape, and enslavement.

Recent developments in Ukraine offer a glimmer of hope amidst this darkness. Survivors of sexual violence during wartime there are set to receive reparations—a significant milestone. It’s the fastest response to such atrocities in a conflict-ridden nation’s history. Yet, why has this fundamental right been so delayed in its implementation worldwide?

In my line of work, we often talk about the “recipe” for reparations. Picture it like a cooking recipe, with each ingredient playing a crucial role. Ukraine stands out as the first place where I’ve seen all the right ingredients come together.


First off, you need a government willing to acknowledge the need for reparations. Ukraine understands the gravity of conflict-related sexual violence and accepts its responsibility to provide redress—even if it means holding its own soldiers accountable.

Moreover, Ukraine boasts a robust legal framework and strong governmental institutions. These structures ensure that government-led reparation efforts can proceed smoothly. In contrast, places like the Central African Republic face challenges due to weak legal systems and institutional instability.

Having influential allies can also make a difference. Ukraine faces scrutiny from other European nations and the US, compelling it to address human rights abuses within its borders. This external pressure, coupled with financial assistance and expertise, paves the way for effective reparations.


Sadly, not all countries receive such international attention. Take Nepal, for instance, where survivors have waited nearly two decades for promised reparations without any progress. Imagine the impact if Nepal had the support of strategic allies invested in healing the wounds of its people.

Democracy and respect for human rights are essential too. In Ukraine, despite the ongoing conflict, pockets of stability exist where civil society and media thrive—vital for pushing the government to act.

Survivors’ voices are perhaps the most powerful ingredient in this recipe. Yet, speaking out can be daunting, as seen in places like El Salvador, where survivors still struggle to demand reparations decades after the war ended.

Female leadership also plays a crucial role. In Ukraine, women in government, including First Lady Olena Zelenska, alongside survivors themselves, have spearheaded efforts to address conflict-related sexual violence.

Of course, none of this happens without funding. Whether from international donors or innovative financing methods, like repurposing seized assets, money is essential for reparations. In Colombia, for instance, billions are needed to compensate victims of decades-long conflict.

But even in the most challenging circumstances, every survivor deserves reparations. Consider Syria, where democratic governance, rule of law, and security are all but nonexistent. Yet, thanks to initiatives like the Global Survivors Fund, Syrian survivors in Turkey receive vital support, reclaiming their dignity in the face of adversity.

Ultimately, repairing the damage of conflict is possible when compassion drives action. The dedication of organizations like the Global Survivors Fund, alongside local partners, donors, and most importantly, survivors themselves, proves that caring is the first step towards healing.

Dr. Clara Sandoval, a Colombian human rights advocate and professor, serves as a beacon of hope in this global endeavor. Through her work with the Global Survivors Fund and academic contributions, she champions the rights of survivors worldwide.

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