UN official decries ‘overlooked’ crime of rape during conflict

6 August 2010

Rape is one of the world’s greatest peace and security challenges, a senior United Nations official said today, adding that rape in times of conflict remains one of the least-condemned war crimes, leading to impunity for perpetrators.

Rape “is not a crime that the world can dismiss as collateral damage or cultural, which it is often called,” Margot Wallström, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, told reporters at the UN Headquaters in New York.

“In modern war, as it plays out very often, rape is not a side effect but it is actually a new frontline,” she said, adding that widespread and systematic sexual violence is both a crime against the victim and a crime against humanity.

Security for women is linked to the wider international security, Ms. Wallström stated, adding that mass rape during conflict should not be treated as a lesser crime than mass murder.

She said that victims of rape were often turned into outcasts because of the stigma and humiliation associated with the crime.

Ms. Wallström, who was appointed to her position six month ago, said her measure of success would be in the number of women and girls who felt safer in their daily lives rather than in the reports produced and meetings organized.

She reiterated that her priorities were to empower women subjected to rape to seek redress, mobilize political leadership against sexual violence, raise the level of recognition of rape as a tactic of war and an impediment to peacebuilding, and to ensure a coordinated response to sexual crime in the United Nations system.

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