Arms Trade Treaty
Negotiations for a treaty to regulate the trade of conventional weapons commenced on March 18th at the United Nations. Campaign members, including Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom have led the call for an agreement which contains gender-sensitive language and provisions to confront armed gender violence around the world. The General Assembly passed the agreement with a strong majority.
As the conflict enters its 10th year, rape and gender violence is still widespread in the region. Rape is under-reported for fear of retaliation by the security forces and the area continues to be highly insecure for women and girls, particulalry in internally displaced camps.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda surrendered at the United States’ embassy in Rwanda on March 18th. The Campaign joined with other civil society members in calling on Ntaganda’s immediate transfer to the International Criminal Court where he is charged with war crimes, including sexual violence. While a first step in justice for survivors of rape in Eastern Congo, the Campaign joins with our members in the region in calling for the prosecution of all perpetrators of gender violence in the country.
The trial of José Efraín Ríos Montt has begun in Guatemala, where the former dictator faces charges of mass rape and other crimes against humanity against the indigenous Maya population in the Ixil region. Sexual violence was pervasive during Guatemala’s 36 year civil war, during which an estimated 100,000 women were raped.
Parliament passed a sweeping new law on sexual violence in March on the heels of protests after the death of a young Indian woman who was gang raped on a bus in Delhi in December. Under the new legislation acts such as stalking, voyeurism, and sexual harassment are designated as crimes, although critics note that it also provides for the death penalty for repeat offenders or fatal attacks.
A woman who was arrested for telling a journalist about her rape by Somali security forces has been released from prison after her conviction was overturned. The journalist, who was also imprisoned, was released later in March after an appeal.
South Africa & Zimbabwe
In a groundbreaking move, South Africa will investigate Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF party, led by President Robert Mugabe, for systematic rape ahead of elections held in 2008. The development comes due to the tireless efforts of Campaign Advisory Committee member AIDS-Free World and marks the first time that the principle of “universal jurisdiction” has been applied to the crime of rape.