Addis Ababa—January 26, 2013
The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is calling on the African Union to prioritize tackling conflict-related rape as it meets during the 20th Summit.
“Sexual violence is one of the biggest barriers to building peace and security,” says Nobel Peace laureate Jody Williams (USA), the co-chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. “Until we commit to ending rape and other forms of gender-based violence, we are not going to be able to build healthy and safe communities that contribute to economic development and empower women and girls to reach their full potential.”
A delegation of 25 Campaign members from across the continent, led by Ms. Williams, have gathered in Addis Ababa ahead of the Summit to highlight the need for African leaders to take leadership in stopping rape in conflict.
The meeting of Heads of State during the 20th African Union Summit is taking place in the Ethiopian capital from January 27-28. Much of the Summit will focus on recent surges in violence, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the continuing border dispute between Sudan and South Sudan, and the recent war in Mali. Rape is a common feature of the conflicts in both Sudan and Mali, as well in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries in Africa. Some post-conflict countries, such as Liberia, struggle with rape as an on-going and daily reality for women.
The Campaign is calling on the African Union to act collectively; it is also encouraging member states to take their own initiative to prevent rape, to protect their citizens, and prosecute those responsible for gender violence.
“We hear many promises from our leaders about the importance of ending violence against women. These politicians are now facing a choice—choose to act or ignore commitments,” said Pauline Kamau, Executive Director of Green Belt Movement in Kenya. “Our leaders must show leadership and prove that they have the future well-being of Africa and African women in mind.”
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, women are once again on the frontlines of violence as the M23 rebellion threatens the east. Numbers of women and girls attacked is spiking while the region argues over a military intervention.
Kenya is on the brink of election in March, with the population dreading that the post-election violence from 2007-2008, will once again surface. Often ethnically motivated, women are the first targets of the violence. Attacks have already begun ahead of the elections.
The civil war in Mali is a direct threat to women’s safety and security, with women again being targeted for sexual violence. As Malian women move into neighbouring countries as refugees, they remain vulnerable to sexual assault in refugee camps.
On this historic occasion of the 20th Summit, it is time of the African Union to bring real change to the women at the grassroots level. Women’s protection must be at the forefront of the agenda and the African Union must hold member states accountable for the security of their own populations.
The Campaign calls on every Head of State taking part at the AU Summit to take leadership to stop rape in conflict—within their own country, within their region, and the continent.
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The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict
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The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is led by the Nobel Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and an Advisory Committee comprised of 25 organizations working at the international, regional and community levels to stop rape.
Since its launch in May 2012, more than 600 organizations from around the world have joined. The Campaign demands urgent and bold political leadership to prevent rape in conflict, to protect civilians and rape survivors, and calls for justice for all—including effective prosecution of those responsible.
Note for Editors
The issue at hand
Rape in conflict is not a new phenomenon. But with increased data, research, and media visibility, we are able to demonstrate the widespread nature of gender violence around the world. Rape is no longer considered an inevitable part of armed conflict—evidence shows that it is employed as a strategic weapon to destroy people, communities and entire nations.
Gender violence is a tactical weapon used by state security forces and armed groups alike. It includes rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, sterilization, mutilation and insertion of objects into cavities. In international law, rape and gender violence are considered a crime against humanity and a war crime. Rape can be a crime of genocide.
The motives for conflict-related rape and gender violence are varied—ranging from tactical to personal. Rape is often used to destroy the social and cultural bonds of communities, gang rape can be used to create cohesion within army units, it can be used to ensure terror among the enemy or during looting.
Rape continues to often be used as a weapon after peace has been negotiated, as various sides in conflicts struggle to demobilize and resume their lives alongside each other—often sill fearing renewed clashes. Gender violence continues to leave a deep impact on survivors and communities in the years after the attack and conflict. Medical problems such as sexually transmitted diseases or gynecological fistula, only compound the psychological trauma.
The delegation will be communicating the following to the leadership within the African Union:
- Powerful and urgent leadership on the local, national, regional, an international levels to prevent and stop rape and gender violence and conflict situations;
- A dramatic increase in resources for prevention and protection and for psychosocial and physical healing of survivors, their families and communities, including converted efforts to end stigma of survivors;
- Justice for victims, including prosecution of perpetrators at national, regional and international levels and comprehensive reparation for survivors.