During nearly five years of conflict, armed groups in the Central African Republic have committed widespread sexual violence and used rape and sexual slavery as a tactic of war. Two main parties to the conflict, the Seleka and anti-balaka, have used sexual violence to punish women and girls, particularly along sectarian lines. In many cases, the sexual violence Human Rights Watch documented amounts to torture.
Historic impunity for sexual violence in the country, as well as a largely dysfunctional justice system, give survivors little hope for justice. Most cases Human Rights Watch documented are not only crimes under Central African law but constitute war crimes and may constitute crimes against humanity. Despite this, to date not a single member of an armed group is known to have been punished for rape.
Women and girls often said they suffered incapacitating physical and mental health problems as a result of rape, but most had not received medical or mental health care. Lack of services, cost of services, and fear of stigma are significant barriers to women and girls disclosing rape or seeking help.
Human Rights Watch interviewed nearly 300 survivors of sexual slavery and rape by members of armed groups. These are some of their stories.