Protocol targets sex violence in conflict

Updated: 2014-06-13 07:28

By Xinhua in London (China Daily)

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Victims reluctant to talk about crimes due to lack of resources, corruption

British Foreign Secretary William Hague and United Nations Special Envoy Angelina Jolie launched on Wednesday a new protocol at the ongoing "End Sexual Violence" summit in London, which could provide guidelines on how to investigate and document sexual violence in conflict.

The International Protocol, the first of its kind, aims to set an international standard for how to investigate and collect evidence in sexual violence in conflict, which is expected to become a tool to increase the number of prosecutions for these crimes worldwide.

"We hope it will play a vital role in shattering the culture of impunity for sexual violence in conflict. This impunity is a major factor in why these crimes continue," Hague said.

The protocol could help prosecutors, police, peacekeepers and society better collect evidence and carry out investigations into sexual violence in conflict so that perpetrators can be brought to justice, he added.

Statistics show that up to 50,000 women were victims of sexual violence during the war in Bosnia, while the number of victims in countries from Sudan to Syria and Egypt will be unknown, as most of the victims choose to keep silent, leading to perpetrators remaining at large while victims and their families break down.

"They use rape as a weapon against their enemy. They rape because they want people to be silenced, and to break their dreams," said Tawakkol Karman, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, adding that is a veiled message to the rivals to make them feel embarrassed about their inability to protect their women.

"We need serious action to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes of sexual violence, in addition to national responsibility in addressing the root causes of sexual violence in armed conflict," she said.

That requires a link between political and security activities and activities related to development and human rights, including gender equality and the rule of law and justice, Karman said.

Protocol targets sex violence in conflict

She said rule of law was one of the key elements of conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building.

Karman has been engaged in the protection of women and girls' rights, as well as the promotion of safety and peace building in Yemen for many years.

She encouraged affected women and girls to speak out about their plight.

"I've always believed that women in countries with high rates of rape are extremely strong and have the courage to stop this historic injustice," she said.

Research shows that sexual violence remains the most pervasive and life threatening negative phenomenon in Kenya.

The Kenya Demographic Health Survey Report (2008-09) said that almost half of women aged 15 to 49 in the country have experienced either physical or sexual violence, or both.

Wangu Kanja, a Kenyan, was carjacked and brutally assaulted, but she rose above her trauma and has now become a supporter to survivors of sexual violence.

"I use my own experience to help women and children to start the healing process and at the same time get access to justice, and try to help them become less vulnerable," she said.

However, challenges still exist, she said, referring to lack of funding and resources, corruption in the cases, and the difficulty of changing people's mind to talk about sexual violence.

The four-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict kicked off on Tuesday and will end on Friday. Nearly 2,000 delegates, including international organizations and civil society representatives from more than 100 countries and regions, attended the summit.

 Protocol targets sex violence in conflict

UN ambassador Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague pose for photographs with Carine Safari (second from right) and Nyota Babunga, two Congolese women's rights activists, at a summit to end sexual violence in conflict at the Excel Center in London on Wednesday. Andrew Winning / Reuters

(China Daily 06/13/2014 page10)