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Sexual violence in conflict ‘terrorizes populations, destroys lives and divides communities’ – Global issues

In his message give International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflictcelebrated on Sunday, Secretary General António Guterres also observed that perpetrators rarely face the consequences of their actions.

“That is survivors carry the burden of stigma and trauma throughout their lives, often doubly brutalized by harmful social norms and victim-blaming“.

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And Virginia Gamba, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, notes that although at least 14,200 children have been identified as victims of sexual violence, that is only “the tip of the iceberg. sank”.

Mr. Guterres attested: “We unite… support the most vulnerable women, girls, men and boys as they struggle to live in dignity and peace in the midst of crises humanitarian,” including increasing assistance to those affected and displaced; who are vulnerable to trafficking and sexual exploitation.

He added that rural areas with weak protection systems also need to be focused on for additional support.

This means strengthening national justice systems to hold perpetrators accountable, ensuring victims receive medical and psychosocial support, and upholding victims’ rights.

In addition, it asks to support women-led civil society organizations to break down social, economic and cultural barriers that deny protection, equality and justice, and to address underlying causes of sexual violence in conflict.

With growing political will and financial resources, we can combine words with action and end the scourge of sexual violence in conflict, once and for all.”, emphasized the Secretary-General.

One in four cases of conflict-related sexual violence reported in South Sudan are against children.

© UNICEF / Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin

One in four cases of conflict-related sexual violence reported in South Sudan are against children.

‘Keeping the next generations’

At the same time, the United Nations Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten, together with the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union (EU) Josep Borrell, issued an appeal. collective call to the international community to help eliminate conflict-related sexual violence. , and “save succeeding generations from this scourge”.

It’s time to go beyond reactive approaches and address the underlying causes and unseen motives of sexual violence.… As well as harmful social norms regarding honor, shame, and victim blaming,” they said in Joint statement.

They expressed profound astonishment at the impact the war in Ukraine is having on civilians, and grave concern at the confusing and cohesive personal statements. allegation of sexual violence.

“We strongly condemn such crimes and call for an immediate end to the violence.”

Increasing militarization

From Afghanistan, to Guinea, Mali, Myanmar, and elsewhere, they draw attention to an “epidemic of coups and military takeovers” that have “turned back the clock on women’s rights”.

And as new crises escalate, wars elsewhere continue, including in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Each side is marked by alarming levels of conflict-related sexual violence being used as a tool of political repression, intimidation and revenge against frontline actors and activists. .

It is important to promote a protective environment that prevents and prevents sexual violence in the first instance and allows for secure reporting and full feedback,” they said. “Prevention is the best form of protection, including preventing conflict.”

Targeted action

To address sexual violence, they said, greater political and diplomatic engagement in ceasefire and peace agreements, threat analysis, justice reform and the security sector is needed. more gender responsive; and to amplify the voices of survivors and affected communities.

They said: “On this day, we are united in our unwavering commitment to support survivors and end punishment for perpetrators. “Survivors must be viewed by their society as having rights, respected and enforced, in times of war and peace.“.

Bodies become battlefields

Natalia Kanem, director of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, shown that “when war begins, so does the terror and devastation of sexual violence”.

“The bodies of women and girls become a battlefield. Rape used as a weapon of war is certainly like a bomb that blows up a building or a tank that rushes through a crowd,” she said.

She elaborates on the many consequences of sexual violence, from a brutal body to a scarred mind.

It silences and shames women, instills fear and insecurity, and leaves devastating sequelae from prolonged disability, sexually transmitted infections, loss of wages, she said. health care costs and stigma against survivors and their families.

‘Violation of human rights’

Ms. Kanem reminded that sexual violence is a “violation of human rights and a crime under international humanitarian law” that must never be ignored, excused or belittled. “In fact, that shouldn’t have happened at all.”

“It shows the scale and prevalence of gender inequality and gender-based violence in every society, everywhere, an unacceptable reality only exacerbated by crises and conflicts.

Regardless of the circumstances, all women and girls have the inherent rights to safety, to live in peace and dignity, to freedom and equality.

The head of UNFPA vowed to stand behind victim-centred investigations and prosecutions into allegations of sexual violence and do “everything possible to break the gender inequality that causes all forms of gender-based violence”.

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