Zainab Bangura lectures European Women on sex violence in Brussels
United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura (right, in photo) has said Sexual violence in conflict is a crime with a long and infamous history, a crime that is not only perpetrated against women and girls but also men and boys.
Addressing a group of women participants from 62 organisations at the Permanent Mission of Poland to the European Union, and to Women In International Security in Brussels, Madam Bangura reiterated that her goal is not to make incremental changes in the hopes that “we can diminish this problem, but to press for nothing less than the eradication of rape in war”.
Highlighting how she could go about in achieving this goal, the Sierra Leonean–born ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation and Minister of Health & Sanitation presented a 6-point agenda to accomplish the task, which include; “ending impunity for perpetrators and seeking justice for victims; protecting and empowering civilians who face sexual violence in conflict, in particular women and girls who are targeted disproportionately by this crime; mobilising political leadership to address war time rape; increasing recognition of rape as a tactic of war and encouraging more research on the issue; strengthening coordination and ensuring a more coherent response from the UN system; and, finally, emphasizing national ownership, leadership and responsibility in the fight to put an end to this scourge”.
Mrs Bangura added that war is waged not just on battlefields and against communities, but also on the bodies of women. That by attacking women physically, “you tear at the very fabric of society and the cornerstones of communities”
She assured her audience that through the creation of the Security Council resolutions, “we have the tools we need to dismantle the old system in which sexual violence is treated as a second class crime that happens to second class people. What we now need is to set to work building a new foundation for this new century, in which women’s rights are respected, protected, and conflict-related sexual violence is treated as the international crime it is”.
She added, “the road will be long, but the priority areas I outlined in my agenda provide the way forward. At the local, national, and international level we have to make sure there is no amnesty for the perpetrators. The message to both perpetrators and would-be perpetrators must be clear and unequivocal: this is a crime and if you commit it, we will find you, we will prosecute you and we will punish you. We must raise our voices so that national governments know they cannot put this issue on the back burner and hope it will go away. My Office is willing, able and ready to provide assistance to States to help them develop their capacity to prevent, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate these crimes. Therefore, lack of capacity cannot be an excuse anymore for inaction on the rights of women.
“We must end the stigma and silence that surrounds rape in war and other forms of sexual violence in conflict. All too often it is the victim of sexual violence who endures the shame and the stigma of rape. Survivors are ostracized by their communities, marginalized by society and sometimes even rejected by their own families. We must change the public consciousness so that the shame and embarrassment becomes that of the perpetrator. Survivors should not be punished for someone else’s crime and the failed policies that allowed them to be targeted in the first place”, she stated amidst deafening applause from her audience
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