Call It What It Is - Time to Define Sexual Violence

What makes violence sexual? The International Criminal Court’s legal texts don’t define the term “sexual violence” or provide examples of acts which might be perceived to be sexual. Join us in shaping contemporary and victim-centric guidance to international criminal law practitioners on what makes violence sexual.

The Call it what it is campaign calls on the collective strength of civil society to give survivors of sexual violence in conflict a voice in shaping contemporary, victim-centric and contextually relevant guidance to international criminal law practitioners on what makes violence sexual. Over the course of 2019, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice will bring together civil society actors to spearhead a Civil Society Declaration, that will serve as a vital reference point for international law practitioners on what makes violence sexual. The Declaration will be victim‑centric, forward-thinking, inclusive, culturally-sensitive, and responds to the realities around the world today. Importantly, the Civil Society Declaration will be extensively informed by input from survivors of sexual violence, and ultimately help to ensure a better reflection of the harm suffered by victims of sexual violence in conflict at all stages of international criminal law procedures.

The Civil Society Declaration will contain:

  1. guidance on what makes violence sexual, and
  2. a non-exhaustive list of acts that are considered to be of sexual nature. These will include examples of acts that may be intended as sexual by perpetrators, and/or perceived as such by victims in specific cultural environments and that otherwise may not have been contemplated in definitions of sexual violence.

A broadly endorsed Civil Society Declaration will be presented to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the end of 2019.

Join the campaign:

  • Complete the survey: what makes violence sexual to you?
  • Contribute to the Civil Society Declaration by becoming a partner in the campaign. To join, please leave your details in the survey or contact us directly at
  • Civil society or expert? State representative? Read what you can do here.

2019 is a crucial year to Call it what it is. Sexual violence in conflict is relevant in the three cases (one from Mali and two from the Central African Republic) moving to the confirmation of charges stage at the ICC this year. Also, sexual violence in conflict is pervasive in a majority of the 10 situations under preliminary examinations and 11 situations under investigation by the ICC Prosecutor.

Beyond 2019, the Civil Society Declaration could lead to clarifying the definition of sexual violence in the Elements of Crimes of the Rome Statute. Any State Party to the Rome Statute, the ICC Judges acting by an absolute majority, or the ICC Prosecutor may propose amendments to the Elements of Crimes. Amendments are then adopted by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Assembly of States Parties (article 9 of the Rome Statute).