UN demands end of sexual violence as tactic of war
With US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the chair, the UN Security Council on 30th September 2009 unanimously adopted a resolution to halt the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war.
Resolution 1888, sponsored by 61 countries, reiterated the 15-member body’s “demand for the complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence with immediate effect.”
It affirms “that effective steps to prevent and respond to such acts of sexual violence can significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.”
The US-drafted text calls on UN chief Ban Ki-moon appoint a special representative to “provide coherent and strategic leadership to… address, at both headquarters and country level, sexual violence in armed conflict.”
Clinton, who chaired the high-level meeting “Women, Peace and Security” as her country holds the council’s rotating presidency this month, said the text was “a step forward in our global efforts to end violence perpetrated against women and children in conflict zones.”
She noted that the resolution focused on an issue that “has received too little attention,” she said, noting that it builds on two previous similar Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1820 adopted last year which makes sexual violence a war crime.
Ending sexual violence, particularly in Africa, is a proclaimed priority for the administration of US President Barack Obama and Clinton made a point of raising the issue in August when she visited the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country which has seen an epidemic of horrific sexual assaults against women.
“Today, the United States joins with the international community in sending a simple and unequivocal message: violence against women and children will not be tolerated and must be stopped,” Obama said in a statement after the council vote.
“I am pleased that the Security Council, chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unanimously approved a US-sponsored resolution that will increase the protection of women and children in conflict,” Obama added.
Obama vowed that his administration would “continue to support the right of all women and girls to live free from fear, and to realize their full potential.”
The resolution urges states to “undertake comprehensive legal and judicial reforms… without delay and with a view to bringing perpetrators of sexual violence in conflicts to justice.”
Parties to a conflict must also “ensure that all reports of sexual violence committed by civilians or by military personnel are thoroughly investigated and the alleged perpetrators brought to justice.”
Ban, who attended the meeting along with France’s junior minister for cooperation Alain Joyandet, said the Council was sending “an equivocal message — a call to action.”
“Sexual violence — in armed conflict or, indeed, at any time — should have no place and find no haven in our world,” he added. “We must all do our part to fight and end discrimination against women and girls.”
Joyandet called the creation of a high-level UN special representative to spearhead the fight against sexual violence in armed conflict “a major step forward.”
“We hope that this post will be created as soon as possible,” he added.
Britain’s outgoing UN Ambassador John Sawers also hailed that fact that Resolution 1888 “provides new leadership to combat sexual violence through the creation of a special representative of the (UN) Secretary General …and creates new steps to name and shame parties to armed conflict that perpetuate sexual violence.”
“The Security Council must live up to its responsibilities and never again relegate the question of systematic sexual violence to being a secondary issue. It is not,” Sawers added. “The measures we have adopted over the last two years now have to be pursued and implemented.”