Losing the battle against rape

Lack of justice for women and girls who have been victims of rape and sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations is high on the agenda for Amnesty today.  

We have two reports looking at the exact theme but in countries separated by thousands of miles: Chad and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Both reports highlight the endemic use of rape and violence against women during war, and both demonstrate just how little attention is paid to seeking justice for the victims of this war crime.

As the article on BBC News Online points out, sexual violence against girls and women in Chad who fled the violence in Darfur is taking place both inside and outside the camps, despite the presence of a UN patrol.

Speaking to the Washington Post, a representative of the UN patrol – MINURCAT – declared that the security situation was improving in the area.

Amnesty’s report found otherwise and as Amnesty’s Africa Deputy Director pointed out on the Today programme this morning, rape against women and girls is pervasive.  Women are particularly vulnerable when they are carrying out duties such as collecting firewood and water but also within refugee camps.  

It’s dismal to see that rape in conflict is as prevalently used today as it was more than ten years ago when the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina took place. Thousands of women and girls were raped and subjected to horrendous sexual violence. Yet despite that war ending 14 years ago, women are still seeking justice and are calling for the perpetrators of such attacks to be held to account.

Read Heather Harvey’s blog on Comment Is Free for more.

Today the UN Security Council is planning to produce a proposal on how to implement resolution 1820 – a resolution which was unanimously passed last year concerning the prevention and prosecution of sexual violence in conflict. In a few days’ time they will also examine the implementation of resolution 1325, concerning the integration of a gender perspective on post-conflict peace and reconstruction. And just a fortnight ago, the UN agreed to create a new, strong UN women’s organisation.

Such activity within the UN is clearly to be welcomed. There seems to be international momentum (on paper at least) to address these awful crimes which directly impact women and girls and indirectly their families and the community at large.  

But agreements and proposals on their own amount to very little if no structures or processes are actually in place during real conflict and post-conflict situations. The thousands of women and girls in both Chad and Bosnia-Herzegovina have a right to carry out daily duties without fear of attack and have a right to swift justice if they have been victims of rape.

I hope that following the various debates at the UN this month, practical solutions and stronger judicial systems will be quickly set up for women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations, so that 15 years after the end of the Darfur conflict, Amnesty doesn’t produce a report saying that justice has not been done for these women.

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