UN: UN Security Council Should Listen to Women Hurt by War

“During wartime, it’s often more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier.”
The United Nations Security Council should effectively address sexual violence in conflict as a weapon of war and its destabilizing impact on communities, Human Rights Watch and the International Women’s Tribune Center said today.
On June 11, 2008 , high-ranking military officials from countries involved in peacekeeping missions and women from war-torn countries will make recommendations to the UN Security Council on how to stop sexual violence in war.

“During wartime, it’s often more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier,” said Marianne Mollman, women’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “As the guardian of international peace and security, it’s the Security Council’s job to deal effectively with the persistent problem of sexual violence in armed conflict.”

Thousands of women and girls have been victims of sexual violence in many conflicts around the world for many years. Even UN peacekeepers have been implicated in committing rape.

On May 27-28, UN military experts, government officials, and women’s rights representatives met in Wilton Park near London to discuss concrete proposals for improving the UN’s record on preventing sexual violence through its peacekeeping operations.

Human Rights Watch and the International Women’s Tribune Center said that the Security Council should provide peacekeepers with a clear mandate to prevent sexual violence.

“UN peacekeepers are charged with the protection of civilians, but they are not always told explicitly that this means stopping sexual violence,” said Mavic Cabrera-Balleza of the International Women’s Tribune Centre. “And the demands on peacekeeping troops are so great that they may ignore anything they are not asked explicitly to do. The Council should provide clear mandates on this key issue.”

Women’s groups from conflict zones have long promoted a stronger participation of women in peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts as a way to ensure that violence directed at women during and after a conflict is adequately dealt with. In January 2008, numerous women’s organizations from the Democratic Republic of Congo put together a short list of recommendations in this regard. Their focus was justice, health services, democratic participation, and accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence.

“Solutions work best when developed in consultation with those who are most affected,” said Mollmann. “The Security Council should consult closely with the women’s groups working on the front lines in seeking solutions to deal more systematically with sexual violence in wartime.”

Over the past decade, UN peacekeepers have been implicated in committing sexual violence against the very populations they were charged with protecting. The United Nations has admitted to some abuses and has announced a zero-tolerance policy regarding such sexual exploitation and abuse, but has yet to put into place a system to effectively prevent the violence. This has raised concerns among human rights and women’s rights groups about the UN’s ability to prevent sexual violence committed by others.

New York, 11 June 2008

International Women’s Tribune Center (IWTC) and Human Rights Watch (HRW)