In recent years, the term ‘tactic of terrorism’ has increasingly been used to describe conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking by non-state armed groups. This framing has complemented (and at times replaced) the longstanding recognition of ‘rape as a weapon of war’ including at the UN Security Council. This association with terrorism has tactical advantages but also poses wider risks for the realization of human rights. On the one hand, it has the potential to engage counter-terrorism powers and resources to prosecute perpetrators and prompt reparations. However, it also risks legitimizing harmful counter-terror measures and obscuring a more comprehensive understanding of the gendered harms associated with conflict and terrorism. With particular reference to the conflicts involving Boko Haram and Islamic State, this article weighs the advantages and costs of framing sexual violence and human trafficking as a ‘tactic of terrorism’ in order to inform and warn feminist human rights advocates.
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