UN Finds 'Hideous' Violence Follows Conflicts

“Violence against women has reached hideous and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in opening remarks at an October 23 meeting on women, peace and security. “Together, all of us need to strengthen our collective and individual response to it. This is essential if we are to reverse the damage done by conflict, and to build more inclusive, accountable, and cohesive societies, underpinned by democratic institutions.” His remarks kicked off a day-long open meeting to discuss the implementation of a seven-year-old resolution that called for the prosecution of crimes against women and greater protection for women and girls during times of war.

Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women Rachel N. Mayanja said, “Sexual violence in conflict, particularly rape, should be named for what it is: not a private act or the unfortunate misbehaviour of a renegade soldier, but aggression, torture, war crime and genocide.”

Ban Ki-moon’s remarks emphasized that Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security also calls for women to be involved in decision making at every level of peacemaking and peace building. “More and more, women participate in mediating and negotiating peace, in searching for justice, in fostering reconciliation, in supporting disarmament and demobilization, and in shaping development policies and rebuilding institutions… But there is so much more left to do,” he said. “We need to appoint more women in leadership positions in our peace operations around the world.”

More than 50 speakers echoed those sentiments during the event. In a formal statement, the Security Council stressed the need for women to participate in conflict prevention and resolution and expressed concern that “the under representation of women in the formal peace process would result in shattered economies and social structures, lack of the rule of law, poverty, limited access to education and other services, and various forms of discrimination and stereotypes.” The Security Council demanded an end to impunity for rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guénenno said that, for seven years the focus has been on implementing parts of Resolution 1325, but urged a new approach. “A concerted integrated approach [is] needed to address rape and sexual violence in conflicts and post-conflict situations.”

“While rape was used as a weapon of war in such situations as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur, addressing that war crime [requires] going beyond political compromise and power- and resource-sharing agreements,” he said. “In combating such crimes, the role of the Security Council [is] important in ensuring that the mandates and resources it authorized took into account the situation faced by women and girls on the ground. The political leadership of the United Nations… [is] a vital tool in eliminating sexual violence.”

Based on interviews with 24,000 women around the world, a 2005 World Health Organization study found that 20-75 percent of women had experienced physical or sexual violence since age 15.

For more information on the United Nations day-long meeting on women, peace, and security, please visit, www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/sc9151.doc.htm.

[Browse more features]