CREDIT: Ewelina U. Ochab [Forbes Contributor]
June 19 every year has been designated by The United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The day was established by the UN General Assembly in 2015. Its goal is to shed light on the issue of conflict-related sexual violence by armed extremist groups such as Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and Islamic She UN Security Council passed Resolution 2467 (2019) which was meant to provide for concrete commitments to fight the use of sexual violence in armed conflict.
Justifiably, this is not the first time the UN has called for action to address the issue. However, as the practice continues, the UN demands that various actors take (more) ownership over their commitments to end it.
Today, 6 years on, Resolution 2467 still places significant emphasis on the need to combat the ever-growing impunity for rape and sexual violence in war by making provision for reparations of survivors and livelihood support that would enable them to rebuild their lives after the sexual abuse they suffered. UN member states need to “strengthen legislation and enhance investigation and prosecution of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations consistent with fair trial guarantees under international law.”
This year, due to the pandemic, a virtual event will take place to mark the sixth annual International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. Co-hosted by the Office of the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, and the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations, the purpose of this event is to outline a number of implications and consequences related to the effects of COVID-19 on the lives of the survivors, as well as on the delivery of the CRSV mandate and the work of the UN system as a whole.
It is however important that leaders worldwide whether national or local, including community, religious and traditional leaders, play a more active role in advocating against sexual violence in conflict within communities. This is a crucial step towards prevention of sexual violence in conflict to engage all levels of the international community and to teach that the use of sexual violence is not acceptable, whether in conflict or in peace.
Let us remember what UN Secretary-General António Guterres said “we must hear the survivors, and recognize their needs and demands. They are mostly women and girls, but also men and boys, calling for our support to access life-saving health services, justice and reparation.”
It must be made clear, once and for all, that sexual violence, whenever and wherever it occurs, is a crime and cannot be justified. Sexual violence in armed conflicts must be subject to an absolute prohibition, the same status that the crime of torture currently enjoys. Impunity for the crime has no place in the 21st century.