UN demands end to conflict-related sexual violence

October 1, 2009

The UN Security Council demanded on Wednesday the end of sexual violence in armed conflict, a scourge that has plagued many conflict-stricken regions around the world.

UN Security council holds a session on women, peace and security at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States, Sept. 30, 2009. The UN Security Council unanimously voted on Wednesday to approve a resolution demanding the end of sexual violence in armed conflict. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)

The 15-member body, which held an open session presided over by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, demanded that all parties to armed conflict take immediate action to protect civilians, including women and children, from all forms of sexual violence.

“Even though women and children are rarely responsible for initiating armed conflict, they are often war’s most vulnerable and violated victims,” Clinton, whose country holds the council’s rotating presidency for September, told the council.

“The resolution we passed today represents a step forward in our global efforts to end violence perpetrated against women and children in conflict zones,” she said.

The U.S.-sponsored resolution 1888 reaffirmed that sexual violence, “when used or commissioned as a tactic of war … or as a part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations … can significantly exacerbate situations of armed conflict and may impede the restoration of international peace and security.”

The resolution reaffirmed that “effective steps to prevent and respond to such acts of sexual violence can significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Demanding “complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence with immediate effect,” it requested UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special representative to address sexual violence in armed conflict through cooperation with member states, all parties to armed conflict and civil society.

In addition, the council called on the UN chief to identify and take appropriate measures to deploy rapidly a team of experts to situations of particular concern with respect to sexual violence in armed conflict.

In his remarks after the vote, the UN chief said that “despite some progress in responding to sexual violence in armed conflicts, the deliberate targeting of civilians continues unabated, including on a widespread or systematic basis.”

“With this resolution today, the Security Council is sending an unequivocal message — a call to action,” Ban said. “It is an ambitious platform for intensifying this struggle.”

Clinton said that violence against women and girls during conflict had not diminished, in fact, in some cases it had escalated.

The toll on the victims, their family and society could not be quantified, she said. “It shreds the fabric that weaves us together as human beings.”

In a report issued on the issue in July, Ban called for states to strengthen prevention and protection measures against the systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon, a practice that is rife in armed conflicts in Africa, Asia and Europe.

He has also called on the council to set up an independent commission of inquiry into sexual violence in the conflicts in Chad, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In the eastern DRC alone, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been recorded since 1996.

Resolution 1888 was a follow up to Security Council resolution 1820, which recognized the links between sexual violence and sustainable peace and security.

Resolution 1820, which was also sponsored by the United States, was unanimously adopted on June 19, 2008.


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