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Eliminating Sexual Violence In Conflict

Women from a camp for displaced people in Kitchanga, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, listen to Margot Wallstrom, the UN's special representative on sexual violence.

The scourge of sexual violence in conflict has been identified by the United Nations as a matter of acute and urgent concern.

Rape is often used as a tactic of war, intentionally terrorizing and brutalizing entire communities. And although women and girls are by far the most common victims, men and boys are also frequently assaulted. Given that the legacy of sexual violence in conflict can cause long term instability, addressing impunity is part of the process for restoring peace.

Eliminating Sexual Violence In Conflict
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The scourge of sexual violence in conflict has been identified by the United Nations as a matter of acute and urgent concern, said U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power. “Neither the fog of war nor the associated breakdown of law provide any explanation or excuse for actions that violate the rights and disrespect the fundamental dignity of human beings.”

Working through the United Nations Security Council, the international community has repeatedly stated that sexual violence will not be tolerated. But much more needs to be done if we are to stamp out such criminal behavior.

Where sexual violence occurs because the government is weak, the international community must do more to help local institutions develop responses, including access to justice and support for survivors.

That’s because governments have a duty to protect and promote the rights of citizens. Every government should have or establish laws, develop institutions, and pursue policies that protect from sexual violence all of its people, regardless of gender, social or economic status.

It is very important that every government take steps to ensure that the stigma of sexual violence no longer bedevils the survivors, including male survivors, as is too often the case. Instead, it is time to affirm that guilt and stigma fall on the shoulders of the perpetrators. “In far too many countries, the victims of sexual violence still have little, if any, effective legal recourse. Until that changes, predators will not be deterred, survivors will hesitate to come forward, and justice will remain beyond reach,” said Ambassador Power.

Sexual abuse is inflicted out of cruelty, and robs people of the right to life, liberty and security of person. Still, for far too long, it has been treated as part of the spoils of victory. That must end.

The government and the people of the United States strongly support a concerted strategy across the globe to address this scourge, both in peace and war.