UN Debates Women, Peace and Security

Following an emotional debate, the United Nations Security Council on Thursday June 19 adopted a resolution that declares rape and sexual violence to be weapons of war, and demands an end to sexual violence against civilians in armed conflicts around the world. The resolution says, in part, that sexual violence is being used as "a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate" civilians in certain ethnic groups and communities.

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chaired the session, which focused on how to best protect women and girls from sexual abuse during and after armed conflict. The resolution asks the U.N. Secretary-General to tighten procedures for stopping violence committed by UN peacekeepers, and to prepare an action plan for collecting information on the use of sexual violence in conflict and then report the information back to the Security Council.

"As many of you know, for years there’s been a debate about whether or not sexual violence against women is a security issue for this forum to address," Secretary Rice said. "I am proud that today, we respond to that lingering question with a resounding yes. This world body now acknowledges that sexual violence in conflict zones is indeed a security concern. We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women, but the economic and social stability of their nations."

Former U.N. Peacekeeping Commander Major General Patrick Cammaert noted that, "It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in an armed conflict."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders also briefed the Security Council, citing conflicts from Darfur to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Liberia to Yugoslavia as examples of sexual violence being used as a military tactic. Ki-moon said that violence against women has "reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict."

"When women and girls are preyed upon and raped, the international community cannot be silent or inactive," Secretary Rice said. "It is our responsibility to be their advocates and defenders. We are taking an important step today that will enable us to better meet that goal."

Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler praised the resolution, and the United States leadership in convincing the United Nations to adopt it. She noted that lawmakers here in the United States can help by passing the bi-partisan International Violence Against Women Act. It would address the global crisis of violence against women and girls by authorizing more than $200 million annually in foreign assistance for international programs that: address violence against women in conflicts and humanitarian situations; prevent violence; support health programs and survivor services; encourage legal accountability; change public attitudes; and promote access to economic opportunity and education.

For more information on I-VAWA, click here.

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