The Security Council today demanded that all sides to armed conflicts around the world stop using violence against women as a tactic of war and take much tougher steps to protect women and girls from such attacks.
In a resolution adopted unanimously after a day-long debate on women, peace and security, Council members said women and girls are consistently targeted during conflicts “as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”
The effect is to also prolong or deepen conflicts and to exacerbate already dire security and humanitarian conditions, particularly when the perpetrators of violent crimes against women go unpunished for their actions.
The resolution demands that all parties immediate stop sexual violence against civilians and begin taking measures, from the training of troops and upholding of military discipline procedures, to protect women and girls.
Sexual violence crimes should be excluded from amnesties reached at the end of conflicts, the 15-member Council added, calling on States to also strengthen their judicial and health-care systems to provide better assistance to victims of violence.
The resolution was adopted after dozens of speakers told the Council about the appalling effects of sexual violence during armed conflicts, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying the problem had reached “unspeakable and pandemic proportions” in some countries.
Mr. Ban announced he will soon appoint a UN envoy tasked entirely with advocating for an end to violence against women.
Opening today’s meeting, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the truest test of the will of the international community was the protection it gave to the most vulnerable.
“When women and girls are raped, we cannot be silent… we must be their advocates,” Ms. Rice said.
South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana C. Dlamini Zuma called for “the silence” around sexual violence to be broken. Many women were afraid to speak out about their ordeal, the minister said, because they were so traumatized and stigmatized by the crimes they endured.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Slovenia’s Sanja Štiglic stressed the need for a gender-sensitive approach to post-conflict countries, from awareness training for judges and court staff to stepped-up efforts to ensure that women’s voices are heard in decision-making processes.
Philomène Omatuku Atshakawo, Minister of Gender, Family and Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where sexual violence has reached epidemic levels in the east of the country, said such violence was leading to the feminization of poverty.
Female victims were no longer able to work the land or work at all, she said, adding that as a result the Government was trying to introduce a range of measures – economic, security and psychosocial among them – to ameliorate the situation.
China’s Liu Zhenmin backed the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation of women and girls by UN peacekeepers and urged troop-contributing countries to boost their training and monitoring of their blue helmets.