Prevention Key to Curb Scourge of Sexual Violence in Conflict

Recognizing that the scourge of sexual violence persists, the United States of America today draw attention to the need for greater emphasis on prevention of sexual violence in conflict.

In his remarks at an open debate on sexual violence in conflict in New York, Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Rosemary A. DiCarlo says giving emphasis to prevention of sexual violence includes at the communal level and within the UN system for engaging parties to conflict to address sexual violence and for integrating sexual violence prevention and response efforts into security and justice sector reform.

How community can prevent sexual violence

According to Ms. DiCarlo, improving prevention of sexual violence requires better understanding of existing protection mechanisms and leveraging grassroots networks that can provide local information to inform prevention efforts in the community level.

Meeting of victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She says there is progress in this area. To cite an example, the Community Policing Centers run by displaced persons in camps in Darfur and the enlistment of imams as advocates for sexual violence prevention in South Darfur.

UN Missions can curb sexual violence too!

For UN missions, better prevention involves equipping peacekeepers and civilian staff with the guidance and expertise to respond to early information about threats of large-scale abuses.

Ms. DiCarlo says the training modules designed by the United Nations are a positive step in that direction, as is the creation of the UN International Network of Female Police Peacekeepers, which links over a thousand UN female police officers around the world to share best practices as well as advocate and mentor female police.

In addition, bringing deeper gender expertise to UN field missions is essential for enhanced prevention of sexual violence.

UN leadership in New York and in the field should commit to greater presence of gender experts and women protection advisors in UN missions, she highlighted.

Furthermore, the deployment of such experts should be routine in UN technical assessment missions.

“We note the particular need for this expertise in Libya to address the root causes of sexual violence perpetrated during the conflict and the resulting trauma.” – Ms. DiCarlo

Parties to conflict must discuss violence; it is critical avenue for prevention

Ms. DiCarlo notes that encouraging parties to conflict to discuss sexual violence within their ranks, though challenging, is another critical avenue of prevention.

She cites that the agreements that Special Representative Bangura brokered in the Central African Republic are models of this engagement.

Changing behavior of armed parties requires political will as well as better monitoring and reporting and, where appropriate, the credible threat of consequences, such as “naming and shaming” and sanctions, she stated.

Furthermore, mediators and envoys must also address conflict-related sexual violence in their ceasefire and peace negotiations.

sexual violence must not be limited to the conflict

Ms. DiCarlo underlines that spectrum of action for countering sexual violence must not be limited to the conflict and its conclusion.

“It must be prioritized throughout peace processes, including in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration phase and in security sector reform.” – Ms. DiCarlo

She says rigorous vetting should ensure that perpetrators and those who have directed sexual violence are denied entry to the security sector.

In addition, there should be strong protection mechanisms for civilians in close proximity of cantonment sites.

Ms. DiCarlo indicates that the best way to ensure these protections is for women themselves to participate meaningfully in SSR and DDR program design and implementation and to have more women working and leading in the security sector.

promote justice andA accountability for such crimes

Ms. DiCarlo says the states must also build reformed national justice sectors and local institutions that can hold accountable those responsible for sexual violence while international criminal justice mechanisms continue to play their important role in ending impunity for these crimes.

In last week’s Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, the G8 reaffirmed that rape and other forms of serious sexual violence in armed conflict are war crimes and emphasized the need to promote justice and accountability for such crimes.

The scourge of sexual violence persists.

A young ethnic Chinese woman who was in one of the Imperial Japanese Army’s comfort battalions is interviewed by an Allied officer. August 1945, Rangoon, Burma.

Sexual violence in conflict is a global problem and it is also complex and multifaceted, from sexual violence used as a tool for coercive population displacement to forced marriages by armed groups to the challenges of widespread unreporting of abuse and the plight of children born out of rape.

Rape as a weapon of war

Rape has long been used as a weapon of war by all sides in the DRC, which has been riven by strife for decades. Last October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallstrom, told the Security Council that hundreds of women who were raped by rebels in eastern DRC in the summer faced the possibility of the same abuse from government troops.

A UN human rights team confirmed that more than 300 civilians, including some boys and men, were raped between 30 July and 2 August in the Walikale region, in eastern DRC, by members of armed groups including the Mai Mai Cheka and the Rwandan rebel group.

Since 1999 and under various names, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, with over 19,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, has overseen the vast country’s emergence from years of civil war and factional chaos, culminating most notably in 2006 with the first democratic elections in over four decades. But fighting has continued in the east where the bulk of UN forces are deployed.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.