In that context, the Council must urgently consolidate progress by ensuring accountability or risk a reversal that would result in wartime rape being once again normalized.
The threat drove forced displacement, inhibited the return of uprooted communities and, through trafficking and sexual exploitation, fuelled a wartime economy, generating revenue for combatants and armed groups. Meanwhile, she said, stigma and victim blaming gave the weapon of rape its uniquely destructive power, shredding the social fabric, turning victims into outcasts and leaving children conceived as a result of wartime rape at risk of being stateless and susceptible to recruitment, radicalization, trafficking and exploitation.
Elaborating on the plight of Rohingya women and girls in Myanmar and those fleeing to Bangladesh, Razia Sultana, senior researcher at Kaladan Press, briefed the Council on recent developments. Women had been gang raped, tortured and killed by State armed forces for no other reason other than being Rohingya.
Delegates drew attention to some recent positive developments. The issue of accountability featured prominently throughout the discussion, with several speakers highlighting access to justice was a means of prevention. Several speakers drew attention to the central role of the International Criminal Court in the fight for accountability as well as the essential duty of Member States to prevent and investigate cases and prosecute perpetrators.
In that connection, a number of representatives expressed dismay that to date no member of Boko Haram or ISIL had yet been prosecuted for such crimes. The meeting began at The tactic was also used as a weapon of war and a common method of torturing detainees. While both genders suffered from such crimes, women and girls were most affected, with those at the lowest levels of wealth, health and education being most at risk.
Survivors were often forced to live with the resulting health effects and social stigma, and when some bore children resulting from rape, those children were in turn shunned from society. Describing sexual violence in conflict as a deliberate tactic aimed at undermining social cohesion, she called on Member States to work to prevent such crimes through accountability and deterrence efforts while also recognizing the important role of survivors as agents of change.
While significant normative and operational progress had been achieved, it was clear that words on paper had not yet been matched by facts on the ground. Over the past decade, enhanced political momentum to combat sexual violence had coincided with a confluence of global crises, including mass migration, rising violent extremism and terrorism, the spread of conflict and the proliferation of arms. Early marriage spiked where families lacked means of protecting their daughters, leading to further repression.
Indeed, sexual violence arose from and reinforced unequal gender relations. Meanwhile, stigma and victim blaming gave the weapon of rape its uniquely destructive power, shredding the social fabric, turning victims into outcasts and leaving children conceived as a result of wartime rape at risk of being stateless and susceptible to recruitment, radicalization, trafficking and exploitation.
Colombia had elevated gender justice to the heart of its peace process and ensured that thousands of survivors received reparations. Congolese authorities had also undertaken hundreds of prosecutions. She also asked members to take a more operational response to alleviate stigma and to adopt a sustained political resolve and resources equal to the scale of the challenge.
While she was grateful to Bangladesh for opening its borders, the international community, especially the Security Council, had failed her people. Since then, State security forces had committed human rights abuses against her people, limiting their movement and restricting their access to their livelihoods, health care, food and education. That was likely only a fraction of the number of women raped. Sexual violence involved hundreds of soldiers across Rakhine State, with strong evidence that the crimes had been systemically planned and used against her people.
Genital mutilation was used to terrorize and destroy their means of reproduction, having horrifying implications for the safety of women and girls around the country. The international community and humanitarian agencies needed to scale up protection services to support Rohingya refugees, including mental health care services, sanitation and water conditions. The provision of safe abortions and emergency contraception was also critically low in camps.
International pressure was needed to end impunity and support legal reforms for all ethnic people in Myanmar, she said. Moreover, the Government of Myanmar must address the issue of Rohingya citizenship and freedom of movement. Her people must be guaranteed a safe return. Finally, the Security Council must refer the situation to the International Criminal Court without delay for its horrific crimes against Rohingya and other ethnic groups. At the same time, it was hypocritical to express horror at violence while also selling arms to Myanmar and seeking licenses to mine its natural resources, she said.
Sweden, when it joined the Council, had set out two overarching priorities: The Council must address the gender dynamics of the root causes of conflict, including structural gender inequalities, as a critical element of the instability that hindered efforts to maintain or restore international peace and security.
In Myanmar, sexual violence was used as a tool for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in an effort to terrorize, stigmatize and shame them into fleeing from their homes. Also deeply troubling were the stigmatization faced by victims, the challenge of their reintegration and the impunity of perpetrators. In Syria and other conflict zones, those crimes were closely related to restrictions of the freedom of movement.
Despite some progress, he expressed concern that to date no member of ISIL or Boko Haram had yet been prosecuted for such crimes. In Somalia, victims faced the double horror of being forced to marry their rapists. Mechanisms must be established to document crimes and, when access to justice was not immediately available, perpetrators must eventually be held accountable.
Sexual violence must also be included as designation criteria in all sanctions regimes, and peacekeeping missions must have the necessary resources to fulfil mandates, including the protection of women, which was not an optional activity. The Council must hold all perpetrators of such crimes accountable and end impunity. Meanwhile, political missions must include the empowerment of women in conflict situations in their agendas and refer those crimes to the justice system.
The retreat by certain armed groups had created challenges in liberated areas, including the reintegration of survivors. The best way to prevent sexual violence was to promote basic freedoms, human rights and political participation while assisting survivors of such violence. He underlined the importance of treating survivors as victims.
Its emotional and physical consequences affected survivors long after wars had ended. The issue was a real threat to international peace and security and an impediment to peace in affected countries. Trafficking was another form of violence, with serious consequences, with victims often not receiving the support they needed. The increase in sexual violence in refugee camps and during displacement was also a major concern, as evidenced by the situation on the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Empowerment of women and access to justice and accountability were key to fighting sexual violence in conflict, however the root causes of conflict needed to be addressed to remove structural inequalities and address poverty. Prevention was also an important tool, she said, stressing the importance of increased cooperation between the United Nations and civil society.
At the national level, Governments must promote the political empowerment of women, she said, citing encouraging progress made in Afghanistan and South Sudan.
While tools were available to deal with sexual violence in conflict, an even greater commitment by Council and the wider United Nations system was needed. Underscoring the lack of accountability to victims, he said attention must focus on, among other things, the economic empowerment of women.
Proper funding was required to address the needs of survivors and carry out initiatives that could counter conditions to foster such an environment. The stigmatization of victims was also widespread and the majority of victims did not report such crimes, contributing to a culture of impunity and preventing them from getting appropriate health care and legal assistance. Many children conceived through rape were ostracized, deprived of fundamental human rights and more likely to be recruited by armed groups.
Calling attention to sexual violence against men and boys, he said the devastating impact on them and their families needed to be discussed in the Council, noting that limited statistics and cultural taboos vastly understated the number of male victims.
Those crimes were used by parties as a strategy of war and terrorism, and were increasingly a lucrative activity that fuelled conflict, he said, noting that they were often used to force entire communities to flee their homes and leave behind their assets. Immediately following the end of its civil conflict, the Government had made the fight against sexual violence a priority and established a national strategy. However, States bore the primary responsibility for enacting legislation to respond to sexual violence.
Victims must receive full, competent and speedy attention. The United Kingdom was committed to preventing and responding to such crimes, having undertaken an initiative demonstrating how central eliminating sexual violence was to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Justice was critical to prevention efforts. While progress had been made in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, much more needed to be done, she said, pointing to the gap in justice and accountability Kosovo.
She urged Member States to implement the international protocol on the documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict. WU HAITAO China said the current international security situation remained challenging and vulnerable groups such as women and girls were bearing the brunt. He condemned the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and any act of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, saying the international community must promote the peaceful resolution of armed conflict to root out the breeding ground for such violence.
Council resolutions on women, peace and security must be implemented earnestly. Support was also needed to help countries to build capacities and promote equality through development. There was also a need to crack down on terrorism and transnational crime while scaling up border control. For its part, China would work to contribute to the early elimination of sexual violence in conflict. Moreover, sanctions had the potential to protect the safety and lives of millions of women and girls in conflict areas, she said, welcoming the recent inclusion of that criterion in the sanctions regime for the Central African Republic.
However, sanctions were not an alternative to the prosecution of crimes punishable under international law. As such, Member States must ensure such prosecutions and facilitate reparations under international humanitarian law.
Nevertheless, sexual violence remained rampant in many conflicts, perpetrated by terrorists, organized criminal groups and others. The widespread movement of populations exacerbated those problems, with many civilians finding themselves trapped in the crossfire or targeted by human traffickers and other criminals.
The use of those crimes against populations should be viewed as a threat to international peace and security, he said, calling for a comprehensive policy to address that scourge that included efforts to ensure equality, empowerment and identifying root causes. All perpetrators must be held accountable and all obstacles to relevant investigations must be removed. Peru had in place a national plan of action and it prioritized the inclusion of Peruvian women as Blue Helmets.
All peacekeepers must be adequately trained in the protection of civilians against sexual violence, he said, emphasizing that those responsible for sexual crimes should never benefit from any forms of amnesty in efforts to resolve conflicts. Calling on the Council to include sexual violence as a designation criterion within sanctions regimes, he said relevant sanctions committees should also be supported by dedicated gender and sexual violence expertise, drawing on information from the Special Representative.
Women in conflict stood as courageous survivors of violence, not as victims. In Syria, sexual violence continued to be used as a tactic of war with rampant impunity, she said, describing it as shocking that not a single member of ISIL had been prosecuted for such crimes. Brazil had redoubled its own efforts to increase the numbers of female candidates for both civilian and military posts in missions and was hosting a related United Nations course. The issue of access to justice for all victims remained at the heart of efforts to respond to the threat of sexual violence in conflict.
The Council must also establish robust mandates, ensure that they provided effective protections for women and punish perpetrators. While awareness had increased about the prevalence and hideousness of such crimes, and normative progress had been achieved, countless women, men, girls and boys still lived under constant threat.
Those living in areas plagued by conflict and violent extremism had the most to fear. Behind every statistic, there was a life and a person. The issue of stigma being placed on victims, rather than on the perpetrator, must also be analysed and addressed. It was unacceptable that most incidents continued to be met with impunity. Specifically, it was a failure that not a single member of ISIL or Boko Haram had yet been prosecuted for sexual offences, he said, noting that victims and witnesses of sexual violence must be ensured access to impartial tribunals and reparations, while their safety was sufficiently addressed.
If such autonomy and empowerment were achieved, that could shatter the cycles of violence to which they were vulnerable. In that way, Colombia had established a differentiated approach to respond to and provide reparations to victims.
In order to achieve the implementation of related resolutions, it was essential to have specific knowledge from the expert panels of sanctions committees, mediators, the military, police and humanitarian actors.