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Open Debate on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

by Ghazal Rahmanpanah

On 15 April 2015, the Security Council under the Jordanian presidency held an all-day open debate on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. PeaceWomen monitored the debate and worked with the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security to support civil society speaker Hamsatu Allamin who presented a civil society statement to the council. Allamin asked for strengthened efforts and coordination of international and local work to support the hopes of those “yearning for peace and an end to violence…[who] are willing to lay down their arms, but lack an alternative” including through action on the Arms Trade Treaty.

 

The 70-speaker debate began with a briefing from Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura to the Council on the Secretary-General’s report, which highlights 2014 as a disturbing year marred by sexual violence specifically within the context of violent extremism. It centered primarily on addressing the use of sexual violence by non-state armed groups, such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)/ DAESH, which operate outside the realm of international law. Sexual violence was recognized as a strategic tactic of war, not a mere byproduct of conflict. Throughout the debate, speakers discussed the need to strengthen UN Peacekeeping Operations by integrating gender-specific training; to better incorporate the women, peace and security agenda within the Council’s thematic work; and to recognize all perpetrators of sexual violence including state actors. References were also made for expanding designation criteria for sanctions committees – including the 1267/1989 al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee - to include sexual violence. In the SG’s report, the analysis concluded that Conflict Related Sexual Violence is exacerbated in situations where systemic gender-based discrimination already exists; further, as a primary reason for displacement, this sexual violence creates a vicious cycle of vulnerability for women in conflict-settings.

 

As conflicts throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and elsewhere, continue to spread and the rate of displacement intensifies, now more than ever is time for action to ensure the protection of civilians. As SRSG Bangura noted in her statement, “the history of wartime rape has been a history of denial.” Thus, in this important and milestone year, we must turn our commitments into actions.

 

Read our full analysis here.