Sexual violence, including rape and forced marriage, has become an endemic problem in conflict and post-conflict environments. It affects not only women and girls, but also men and boys, and is often used as part of a conscious strategic choice to terrorize the population, break up families, destroy communities, and, in some instances, change the ethnic make-up of the next generation.
Conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and other countries – within and outside Africa – have left countless women and men, girls and boys victims of sexual atrocities.
At the invitation of the Executive Director of UNITAR, Sally Fegan Wyles, Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation Alan Doss joined a high-level panel to discuss sexual violence in conflict. Present on the Panel were the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms Zainab Bangura of Sierra Leone and General Romeo Dellaire (retired) of Canada.
Held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva with the participation UN diplomats, NGOs, civil society groups and UN staff, the Panel members spoke of their personal experiences in trying to prevent sexual violence in war zones as well as its devastating consequences.
Recalling his work in several conflict-affected countries, Mr Doss stressed the importance of peace as the best way to prevent such violence. “If rape is a weapon of war, then peace is the best way to disarm that weapon” he said. He agreed with SRSG Bangura and General Dellaire that survivors and their families must receive far greater support and assistance as they will carry the burden of that violence all their lives.
But he also added that ending impunity for such crimes is paramount and that requires a systematic effort to build national institutions that can enforce and maintain the rule of law otherwise women will be victims in peace and not only in war.