The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution strengthening ways to fight the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
U.N. agencies estimate more than 40,000 women were raped during Liberia’s civil war from 1989-2003, as many as 60,000 in the former Yugoslavia during the early 1990s, and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998.
Syria has now been added to this sad list, with reports of women and girls, and some boys, being sexually violated as a result of that country’s on-going conflict.
Those are just a few examples.
After a war ends, the effects of sexual violence continue in the form of pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, discrimination and ostracising of victims.
The resolution adopted Monday by the U.N. Security Council aims to strengthen mechanisms across the U.N. system that can help tackle rape in war, such as deploying gender advisers with peacekeeping and political missions and urging sanctions against perpetrators of sexual violence where appropriate.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who chaired the meeting, called for an end to sexual violence, saying it is as much a weapon of war as tanks and bullets, intended to tear apart communities and achieve military objectives.
“We need action on all fronts, from the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole, and from governments in conflict-affected countries,” Hague said. “We need to begin to demolish impunity, to create a new culture of deterrence, and at the same time focus on long-term care and support for survivors.”
Perpetrators often go unpunished and are able to rebuild their lives, but their victims have difficulty moving forward, according to Zainab Bangura, the U.N. point-person on sexual violence in conflict.
“In their day-to-day lives, survivors of sexual violence are forced to face the men who raped them; in banks, in supermarkets and at the schools of their children,” Bangura said, “children whose inheritance is the stigma of sexual violence, many of whom are children born of rape.”
She said the international community must raise the cost and consequences for the perpetrators of these crimes.
Also addressing the council meeting was American actress and humanitarian activist Angelina Jolie, who is a U.N. Special Envoy for Refugees.
She appealed to the Security Council to be united in stopping such atrocities.
“Rape as a weapon of war is an assault on security,” Jolie said. “And a world in which these crimes happen is one in which there is not, and never will be, peace.”
She noted that all countries are affected by some form of sexual violence, whether it is domestic abuse or female genital mutilation, and therefore all countries have a responsibility to act to prevent it.