There is a uniqueness to the choice of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The two exceptional personalities selected for the honour — Denis Mukwege, a doctor from Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a gritty survivor of war crimes by ISIS — have been fighting to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Rapes and sexual subjugation are serious issues confronting not just the countries torn apart by civil wars but also the ones that are apparently stable. With the United Nations recognising that rape can constitute a war crime and a constitutive act of genocide, the selection of Mukwege and Murad for the Peace prize is an appropriate gesture by the Nobel Committee. Honouring these two intrepid fighters comes against the backdrop of a worldwide hashtag campaign #MeToo to name and shame sex offenders and send out a powerful message against sexual harassment. In an age when rape has been used as a systematic weapon of war, it is especially fitting that the honour has gone to two such indefatigable campaigners against rape. With this selection, the Nobel organisation has helped redeem itself from the sexual harassment scandal that led to the cancellation of Nobel Prize in Literature. Murad isn’t just an advocate but was a victim too.
As a young Iraqi woman from the minority Yazidi community, she was abducted, raped and sold as a sex slave to Islamic State. Murad eventually escaped and instead of being silenced, she has shown exemplary courage in speaking up on behalf of victims. She has dedicated her life to the campaign to liberate the Yazidi people from the clutches of barbarism. Dr Mukwege, on the other hand, is a Congolese gynaecologist who has also seen the effects of rape in warfare first hand. He has treated tens of thousands of victims in the senseless Congolese conflict. He faced several threats, including an assassination attempt, because of his mission in Congo, which has been called the ‘rape capital of the world.’ He has emerged as the most unifying symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflicts. The two heroic fighters can use their status as Nobel laureates to galvanise a global response to this scourge. While the Peace prize will shine light on the plight of Yazidi and Congolese women, the pernicious practice is global. Mukwege and Murad are, in many ways, the defenders of human dignity. They both are not only the witnesses to horrific crimes but are also the eloquent and courageous fighters to end those crimes. The Nobel Peace Prize provides them a powerful platform to shake the world out of its complacency.