7938th Security Council Meeting: Women, Peace and Security - Part 4

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SIX OFFICIAL 15-May-2017 00:46:17
Shame and stigma were integral to the logic of using sexual violence as a tactic of war, torture or terrorism, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide told the Security Council at 7938th meeting.
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“Aggressors understand that this crime attacks individual and collective identity, social relationships and status,” said Adama Dieng, who is also the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Victims who might survive rape often did not survive its social repercussions, he noted, adding that many were literally dying of shame, foregoing medical and legal help in order to avoid humiliation.

“Simply stated, stigma kills,” he said, pressing the Council to redirect the stigma of sexual violence from victim to perpetrator. To foster deterrence, justice must be done — and be perceived to have been done — in both the courtroom and the community, he emphasized. Sexual violence should be addressed in actions to curb financial flows to terrorist groups, while support for reintegration, especially for women and girls who had escaped Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, must infuse all peacebuilding and recovery efforts, he said, declaring: “Peace begins with peace of mind.”

Also addressing the Council was Mina Jaf, founder of the non-governmental organization Women’s Refugee Route, who agreed that stigma prevented many survivors from reporting abuse and seeking justice. She said she had founded Women’s Refugee Route because humanitarian responses to refugee populations were largely gender-blind. There was also a lack of trained women interpreters, volunteers and specialized service providers to help survivors, she said, adding that, time and time again, she had seen humanitarian agencies implement standardized programmes rather than adapt responses to the needs of survivors.

Urging the Council and Member States to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as fundamental to all efforts to prevent and address sexual violence in conflict, she said they should also ensure that the draft Global Compact for Refugees, to be completed in 2018, was progressive for refugee women and girls by making sure that assistance was not subjected to donor limitations, such as denial of sexual and reproductive health care.

The Council also heard from Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, who said sexual violence was now rightly viewed globally as a legitimate threat to peace requiring an operational security and justice response. As extremists in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali and elsewhere used it to advance their military, economic and ideological ends, there was a need for the protection and empowerment of women and girls to feature throughout the counter-terrorism architecture.

She said the Secretary-General had laid out recommendations in his latest report (document S/2017/249), including a proposal that the Council engage with parties to conflict with the aim of gaining protection commitments and deploying women protection advisers. “We have a solemn responsibility to convert a centuries-old culture of impunity into a culture of accountability and deterrence,” she emphasized. “All our words and laws and resolutions will mean nothing if violations go unpunished in practice, and if we fail in our sacred duty to care for survivors.”

In the ensuing debate, speakers described the deep physical and psychological trauma caused by rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced marriage and other forms of sexual violence that shredded the fabric of communities around the world. They condemned such abuse, whether perpetrated by terrorist groups, State actors or United Nations peacekeepers. Japan’s representative, like many others, expressed strong support for the zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and exploitation by the Organization’s peacekeepers, as well as efforts to realize that policy on the ground.

Several speakers called for engaging traditional religious leaders in the fight against stigma, with Senegal’s representative also stressing the need for cooperation with women’s organizations. Bolivia’s representative emphasized that it was important for women to be in charge of their own bodies, describing efforts to deny them that control as the expression of a patriarchal system.

Describing children born of sexual violence as “invisible” victims since birth, Uruguay’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs pointed out that they were denied the right to a name and faced lives of rejection and exclusion.

The United Kingdom’s representative called for more women at negotiating tables, advocating the inclusion of measures to end sexual violence in all ceasefire agreements. It was crucial to acknowledge that both terrorists and State actors committed “sick acts” when the Council’s own inaction enabled them to do so, he said, underlining that votes, including the veto, had a “very real bearing”.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative cautioned against linking sexual violence with either the maintenance of international peace and security or the prevention of conflict. Citing attempts to foster a broad interpretation of the fight against sexual violence, he said the latest report was fraught with examples of terminology that exceeded the Council’s mandate. Sexual violence as a war crime must be separated from sexual violence as a criminal act unrelated to the parties in conflict, he stressed.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, United States, France, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Egypt, China, Italy, Kazakhstan, Spain, Nigeria, Switzerland, Rwanda, Peru, Liechtenstein, Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, Canada (for the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security), Hungary, Estonia, Chile, Ireland, Guatemala, Poland, Bangladesh, Colombia, Argentina, Norway (for the Nordic countries), Panama, Turkey, Lithuania, Mexico, Sudan, Costa Rica, Germany, India, Czech Republic, Belgium, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Albania, Netherlands, Syria, Portugal, Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela, Indonesia, Ghana, South Africa, Israel, Malaysia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Cambodia, Maldives, Sierra Leone and Djibouti, as well as of the European Union, Holy See and African Union.

The meeting began at 10:39 a.m. and ended at 6:54 p.m.
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