Sexual violence against women during conflict under UN spotlight

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Ten years after adoption of a UN resolution to end rape as a weapon of war and reduce sexual violence during conflict “wars are still being fought on and over the bodies of women and girls”.

South Africa wants more urgent and decisive action by the international community in response to violence against women in times of conflict Ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi told the UN Security Council.

Speaking during a UN debate on “Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflict” Nkosi, the deputy director general: global governance in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), said  South Africa “firmly believes essential services must be provided to sexual violence survivors”.

The debate was staged to mark the 10th anniversary of the adoption of UN Resolution 1888. It came from a German drafted resolution and saw the world body establish the office of a special representative on sexual violence in conflict currently held by Pramila Patten.

Nkosi told the Security Council there was an “inextricable link” between sexual violence in conflict situations and gender equality with South Africa advocating “equal and meaningful participation and full involvement of women in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security”.

“Our peace and security efforts are diminished while women continue to be under siege and at the receiving end of sexual violence.”

According to DIRCO the debate on women, peace and security “is expected to be topical during South Africa’s president of the UN Security Council in October 2019”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council the last 10 years saw “a paradigm shift” in understanding what he termed “the devastating impact” of sexual violence in conflict.

Sexual violence in war “largely affects women and girls because it is closely linked to broader issues of gender inequality and discrimination” Guterres said, adding “prevention must be based on promoting women’s rights and gender equality in all areas, before, during and after conflict”.

“This must include women’s full and effective participation in political, economic and social life and ensuring accessible and responsive justice and security institutions.”

Guterres pointed to links between sexual violence in conflict, gender inequality and discrimination and violent extremism and terrorism.

“Extremists and terrorists often build ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and use sexual violence in various ways, from forced marriage to virtual enslavement. Sexual violence continues to fuel conflict and impacts prospects for lasting peace”.

Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told the debate: “Wars are still being fought on and over the bodies of women and girls”.

“Sexual violence fuels conflict and impacts prospects for lasting peace” she said, adding it is used “precisely because it is such an effective means to target individuals and devastate entire communities”.