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University of Iowa News Release

April 20, 2006

Human Rights Conference To Address Sexual Violence In Conflict Zones

The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights will host a conference in Iowa City April 27-29 on the history of sexual violence in conflict zones.

"Sexual violence has accompanied warfare for millennia, but only with the Balkan wars and the Rwandan genocide of the early 1990s was it recognized as a violation of human rights," said conference organizer Elizabeth Heineman of the UI Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "This conference will explore topics ranging from international law to the use of sexual violence as a tool of terrorism to literary representations of rape in war. It will cover wars from the ancient world to the present day, including the American Civil War, World War II and colonial-era violence in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East."

The conference begins with a keynote address by Rhonda Copelon titled "Visibilizing the Invisible: Accountability for Gender Violence in Conflict Situations." The talk will be held at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 27, in Stanley Auditorium, Room 1505, of the Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences.

Copelon is a professor of law at the City University of New York School of Law and director of CUNY's International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic (IWHR). She is a co-founder and member of the Advisory Council of Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice (formerly Women's Caucus for Gender Justice), which negotiated the gender provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. She has played a significant role in bringing gender into the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunals and other institutions of international human rights. A former staff attorney and longtime member of the Board of the Center for Constitutional Rights, she has argued several women's rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and has written widely on women's rights and human rights under U.S. law and international law.

The conference continues with workshop sessions on Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29 in Schaeffer Hall, Room 302. UI professors Tammy Ho and Jim Giblin will join an international group of scholars in presenting cutting-edge work on sexual violence in conflict zones. Papers for the workshop sessions may be obtained by contacting or 335-3900.

The conference will conclude with a screening of two short documentary films: "Women's Bodies: The Front Line of the War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo" and "God Sleeps in Rwanda" at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 29, in Room 101 of the Becker Communication Studies Building.

All events are free and open to the public. Detailed information on the conference is available on the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights Web site at or by contacting Liz Crooks at 335-3900 or

Funding for the Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones conference is provided by Arts & Humanities Initiative of Iowa, UI International Programs' Major Project Fund, UI Center for Human Rights, and The Perry A. and Helen Judy Bond Fund. The conference is co-sponsored by the UI Departments of History and Women's Studies, Sexuality Studies Program, Institute for Cinema and Culture, and Women's Resource and Action Council, with an additional contribution from the College of Law.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Amy L. Weismann, 319-335-0483,