Nobel Peace Prize Winners Fight Sexual Violence


Illustration by Maura Hopkinson

It is no easy job to absorb mounds of strife and turn it into something people can aspire to. Despite this, there are those who dare to be an advocate for peace and compassion in a divided world. So each year, the Nobel Peace Prize recognizes the dedication of a small number of these people.

On October 5, 2018, Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege joined 133 other Nobel laureates such as Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, and Jimmy Carter to be recognized for their efforts to bring about peace. The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s official announcement stated that this prestigious award was given to them “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

Denis Mukwege is a sixty-three year-old Democratic Republic of Congo Native and gynecologist. He was inspired to study medicine because his father was a minister who often prayed for the sick and Mukwege knew that he could help women go through childbirth without unnecessary complications. He went on to found Panzi Hospital, which is where Mukwege first saw the horrors women endured at the hands of soldiers in wartime.

Mukwege’s compassion started his career as a gynecologist, as well as his impressive activism. Speaking the words “Justice is everyone’s business,” Mukwege forced authorities in Congo to recognize the problem of sexual assault and advocated that it be labeled a definite war crime. Mukwege made it his sole mission to combat the taboos around sexual assault in Congo and address the reality of the issue. In addition, the laureate has established the Mukwege Foundation to combat the problem of sexual assault globally.

The second Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Nadia Murad, has also been working hard to end sexual assault. Murad is a 25-year-old Iraq Yazidi (a Kurdish religious minority) who experienced the horrors of sexual assault firsthand. In 2014, ISIS began persecuting members of the Yazidi religion within their territory. Many men in Murad’s village were murdered while the girls and women were taken as sex slaves. At only twenty one, Murad was taken captive and subject to the vilest of actions by ISIS soldiers, including gang-rape and torture.

Murad managed to escape her captors and then bravely served as a strong voice for the thousands of girls and women still being subjected to the evils of sexual assault. As an Iraqi woman, Murad redefined the norms of her culture by speaking out against sexual assault, opening the door for others to do the same. Murad’s bravery not only sheds light on a terrible issue, but also shows young Iraqi women that they have a voice. Murad continues to advocate for victims of sexual assault, serving as the UN’s first Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

Mukwege and Murad have distinguished themselves as leaders in the worldwide fight against sexual assault. The two laureates have advanced women’s rights, protected the dignity of assault survivors, and advocated for the victims of human trafficking. These efforts resulted in the recognition of Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege as ambassadors of hope and dignity in places plagued by the worst evils of humanity.