War on Sexual Violence: fighting from the international front

 

Windhoek – The international community, particularly the UN Security Council, has on numerous occasions deliberated on the problem of sexual violence in conflict zones, but women continue to suffer brutalities, while the perpetrators go unpunished, says Namibia’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Penda Naanda.

“The United Nations and particularly this august house have convened meetings to deliberate on mitigating factors that can be employed to prevent and or curb such a scourge.

“However, despite all efforts, the scourge still persists and continues to terrorise communities, thereby posing a serious security concern.

“This is so because perpetrators are left unpunished, and the culture of impunity aggravates conflict cycles,” he said.

Naanda made the observation while addressing the Security Council during an open debate on sexual violence in conflict zones under the agenda item “Women, Peace and Security” on April 25, in New York.

“Sexual violence has increasingly become a great concern and has widely spread in conflict and post conflict situations.

“Women and girls are raped, forced into prostitution, sexual slavery and subjected to many forms of sexual acts that leave them with severe physical and psychological/emotional trauma.

“Their lives are shattered, hopes are destroyed and they are left with permanent stigma,” Naanda said.

Naanda stressed that addressing sexual violence in conflict zones requires a broad-based approach that involves the international community, regional and national government, civil societies and other stakeholders.

“National governments should foster national programmes and take measures aimed at preventing and stopping the occurrence of sexual violence, and, prosecute perpetrators.

“In that regard, national stakeholders should be fully engaged in order to foster national ownership, leadership and responsibility”.

The Namibian diplomat cautioned that: “While recognizing that governments bore the primary responsibility for the safety and rights of women and protection of all citizens in their countries, the international community should support those efforts, while fully respecting national sovereignty and focusing on capacity-building and resolving funding and technical difficulties”.

The elimination of conflict-related sexual violence would not be possible without addressing the root causes of gender inequality, and changing the mind-set of the perpetrators, victims and society at large, said the Namibian representative.

“Women empowerment and mainstreaming gender equality in peacekeeping processes and ceasefire agreements are crucial in fighting the scourge.

“Furthermore, survivors and their families should be provided with sufficient medical, psychological and legal support and rehabilitation programmes,” he added.

It is important to ensure that sexual violence considerations are explicitly and consistently reflected in peace, ceasefire and peace agreements, as well as in all security sector reform, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes, that involve the United Nations, he said.

In this regard, Naanda said the adoption by the General Assembly of the Arms Trade Treaty is of critical importance as it is the first international legal instrument that explicitly includes a gender criterion in arms transfers if there is a possibility that such transfers would be used to commit violence against women and children.

“As we celebrated on April 2, 2014, the first anniversary of the historic adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, we look forward to its entry into force,” Naanda said.

Capacity-building and technical support from the international community, Naanda said, is also vital in helping national governments to deal with sexual violence matters.

He said most governments lack adequate national capacities to investigate sexual violence cases and prosecute sexual violence offenders, and that regrettably, impacts on accountability.

“Sufficient resources must be devoted to women-led civil society organisations, particularly those providing services to survivors and those that enable women to access justice and participate in decision-making,” he concluded.

May 2014
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