UNIC Pretoria supports 5th annual Francophonie festival with exhibit on child soldiers

In a call to raise awareness of the worldwide phenomenon of child soldiers, UNIC Pretoria provided support to the High Commission of Canada in Pretoria as well as the Alliance Française of Pretoria to display a photographic exhibition entitled “Children of War”: Broken Childhood”.

Produced originally by the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the exhibition will form part of the month-long Francophonie festival at the Alliance de Française in Pretoria from 20 March to 17 April 2014.

Accompanying the opening of the exhibition on 20 March was a film screening on child soldiers entitled, War Witch (French: Rebelle). With over 130 people in attendance, the film was followed by a panel discussion on the topic, moderated by journalist and broadcaster, Jean-Jaques Cornish. Giving an account of their different experiences and expertise on the topic of child soldiers, the two panel members, Patrizia Benvenuti, Chief of Child Protection for UNICEF South Africa and Jamala Safari, poet and author of “The long great agony and pure laughter of the god”, spoke passionately about the topic.

Responding to a question on the complexity of the recruitment of child soldiers, Ms. Benvenuti replied, “Ending the use of child soldiers can be extremely challenging, particularly when children are enlisted for combat by armed, non-governmental groups. Modern conflicts are characterized by governmental breakdown, making it difficult to identify and influence those recruiting and using children as soldiers.”

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of children are unlawfully recruited to participate in armed conflicts as soldiers, messengers, spies, porters, cooks or to provide sexual services.  Many are pressed into combat where they may be forced to the front lines or sent into minefields ahead of older troops.  Some children are also used as suicide bombers.  This is taking place every day, in many countries around the world, violating children’s rights, destroying their childhood and compromising their future.

Source: UNIC Pretoria/6 April 2014

More than 5,000 Children Released in 2017 – International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers

The international commitment to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict has led to the release and reintegration of more than 5,000 children in 2017, according to the latest numbers compiled by the United Nations; but tens of thousands more remain.

Once released, these children still have to face the complex and long reintegration process into their communities, a decisive step for their wellbeing which also contributes to end the cycles of violence.

“Children can only be freed from armed groups and forces through a comprehensive reintegration process, including medical and psycho-social support, as well as educational programmes and trainings. Without a strong political and financial commitment to the reintegration process, re-recruitment is unfortunately likely to happen in many conflict situations,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, said.

Watch Special Representative Gamba’s interview with the UN News Centre

Despite progress, boys and girls continue to be recruited, kidnapped, forced to fight or work for military groups or armed forces. The recruitment and use of children happened in all 20 country situations covered by the Children and Armed Conflict mandate. Sixty-one parties to conflict out of 63 are listed for this grave violation in the 2016 Annual Report of the Secretary-General, making it by far the most widely-spread violation.

“These children experience appalling levels of violence, which is likely to have dramatic physical and psychological consequences for the adults they will become. It is our responsibility to show these children that there is hope outside of conflicts, that they can live in peace and security and be allowed to live their dreams,” Ms. Gamba, reminded.

This year, the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, marks the 18th anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This protocol sets the minimum age for recruitment into armed forces in conflict at 18 and has been ratified by 167 state parties.

The Special Representative called for support to continue moving towards universal ratification of this important international standard.

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About the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers

The international Day against the Use of Child was initiated in 2002 when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict entered into force on February 12, 2002. This protocol was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in May 2000 and has been ratified by 167 states.

More: https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/mandate/opac/

UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Welcomes the Release of Children in South Sudan

More than 300 Children Released from the ranks of the SPLM-iO Taban Deng Gai and the SSNLM in Western Equatoria State

New York- The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, welcomes the release of more than 300 children, including 87 girls, earlier today in South Sudan after sustained advocacy efforts by the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting.

The children were released in Yambio, the capital of Western Equatoria State, and had been associated with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-iO) Taban Deng Gai and South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM). They will receive reintegration services from UNICEF and partners.

“These children now have an opportunity to rebuild their lives. We can’t let them down and I call on the international community to support their reintegration by providing adequate resources,” declared Virginia Gamba.

She added that all children recruited and used by parties to the conflict should be released, handed over to civilian child protection partners and protected from all grave violations, in line with the 2015 Resolution of Conflict Agreement, the 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the Action Plans signed with the United Nations.

Find out more about the assistance the children will receive by listening to this interview with UNICEF Chief of Child Protection, Vedasto Nsanzugwank.

Read the press releases issued by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and UNICEF South Sudan 

Direct Engagement with Parties to Conflict Brings Progress but Grave Violations Against Children Continue

SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict Annual Report to the Human Rights Council

In her recent annual report to the Human Rights Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed conflict outlined the progress and challenges in protecting boys and girls from being used and abused by parties to conflict, while underlining the inextricable links between grave violations against children and trafficking and displacement.

“Despite notable progress, in every conflict situation – from the Central African Republic to Iraq, Somalia and Yemen – children have been victims of grave violations,” SRSG Virginia Gamba highlighted.  “Boys and girls are continuously used and abused by parties to conflict – tortured, raped or forced to work; increasing joint efforts in addressing and preventing the use of children in armed conflict should be a priority,” she added.

Direct engagement with both government forces and armed groups has brought significant commitment and results to better protect conflict affected children, with more than 124,500 children released and 29 Actions Plans signed over the past two decades. Crucial work from child protection actors has further led parties to conflict to fully implement their actions plans; as a result, 11 have been delisted from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s Annual Report.

Politicization of Humanitarian Aid

The report brings attention to the recurrent politicization of the provision of humanitarian access for the delivery of aid, even when intended for children. In 2016 alone, 994 incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified through the monitoring and reporting mechanism, including through deliberate bureaucratic impediments; almost half of the verified incidents took place in South Sudan. In Syria, parties to conflict have increasingly used besiegement as a tactic of wardepriving nearly 650,000 persons of access to food and other essential commodities. The Special Representative implores parties to conflict to depoliticize the delivery of humanitarian aid to children.

Links Between Trafficking, Displacement and Grave Violations

The report outlined the growing links between child trafficking, displacement and all grave violations against children, and stressed the importance of a synergic response in addressing those crimes. “Conflicts are leading affected children to leave their home country in search for safety. Unaccompanied children may be sold or trafficked as combatants or sexual slaves, while the recruitment and use of children or attacks on schools may lead to child trafficking by parties to conflict,” SRSG Gamba described.

The overlapping nature of these crimes also calls for a better cooperation in addressing such violations including through legal responses to ensure that children are considered primarily as victims of violations and provided with services, the report highlighted.

Focusing on Prevention

The priorities of the new Secretary-General have brought new opportunities for child protection actors, with an increased focus on prevention and reaching the furthest behind, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. With the Children and Armed Conflict mandate in the third decade of its existence, SRSG Gamba expressed the will to broaden the approach through increased public awareness and lessons learned in order to elevate efforts to end and prevent grave violations against children.

Engagement with parties to conflict continued during the reporting period with several technical missions to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Sudan and Sudan; discussions with Member States that have not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child were also constant, with the aim of achieving universal ratification.

Preventing grave violations against children requires sufficient child protection capacities, including to support the reintegration process without which re-recruitment is likely to occur. Funding reintegration programmes, including with a special focus on girls, is thus key, the report stressed.

In line with the Human Rights Council’s position on the important role played by regional arrangements in promoting and protecting human rights, the Special Representative wishes to increase collaboration with regional organizations, including the African Union, the League of Arab States and the European Union. “Collaboration is crucial to address grave violations but also to advocate with one voice for the rights of conflict affected children. The documentation of comprehensive best practices on the children and armed conflict mandate should inform our further action and reduce the impact of conflict on children; I encourage all partners to work jointly with us in that direction,” SRSG Gamba said.

Read the full report: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/37/47&Lang=E&Area=UNDOC

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Stephanie Tremblay / Fabienne Vinet
Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212 963-8285 – Mobile: +1 917 288-5791
tremblay@un.org / vinet@un.org
www.childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/

Children of Myanmar Still Victims of Grave Violations Despite Measures to End Recruitment and Use

Recent Crisis Raises Grave Protection Concerns

The United Nations Secretary-General, in his fourth report on the impact of armed conflict on children in Myanmar, documents progress in the Government of Myanmar’s efforts to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, but notes that on-going clashes and the recent wave of violence in Rakhine add to the plight of conflict affected children in the country.

Covering the period from 1 February 2013 to 30 June 2017, the report does not specifically include the latest crisis in the norther Rakhine state and its impact on children, but the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict has been asked to undertake a one-year update, to be published in August 2018. The SRSG had already sent a fact-finding mission to Bangladesh in November 2017 and is expected to brief the Security Council Working Group on its initial findings.

“Recent violence, especially in the northern and western parts of the country, are putting the children of Myanmar at greater risk of being used and abused by parties to conflict, while jeopardizing the progress made in the past years to end the recruitment and use of children,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba highlighted.

Although the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signed on 15 October 2015 between the Government and eight armed groups was a landmark in the peace process, grave violations were still registered during the reporting period, with recruitment and use being by far the most documented violation, followed by killing and maiming.

Cases of recruitment and use by the Myanmar Armed Forces/Tatmadaw have decreased over the reporting period, with 856 cases verified by the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR). The 2014 establishment of a tripartite mechanism involving the CTFMR and the Ministries of Immigration and Defense accelerated the verification process of children associated with the Tatmadaw, leading to the release of more than 849 children and young people between February 2013 and January 2017.

Security and access constraints remained a constant challenge thus making the gravity and scale of violations perpetrated against children not fully exposed in the report. The CTFMR could verify only a limited number of cases of recruitment and use by armed groups, 22 out of 41 documented, affecting 59 boys and girls.

During the reporting period, 41 children were killed and 104 maimed, the majority victims of improvised explosive devices, landmines and explosive remnants of war (81 children). 53 children were victims of direct armed clashes and cross-fire incidents between armed groups and Tatmadaw.

Rape and sexual violence remained underreported, with the CTFMR verifying nine cases out of 21 reported, all committed by Tatmadaw soldiers against girls. A total of 40 children were reported abducted with a clear increase of cases of abduction by armed groups in years 2015-2016; half of the incidents were attributed to Tatmadaw.

Development and Concerns

In line with the Joint Action Plan signed in 2012 to end the recruitment and use of children, several steps were taken by the Government to better protect the children of Myanmar. This includes the release in November 2013 of a directive abolishing any recruitment under the age of 18, though the application of the directive remains a challenge, and the signature in September 2015 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“I encourage the Government to continue to speed up the implementation of its Action Plan, including through the development of accountability mechanisms. The UN remains ready to support these efforts,” SRSG Gamba said, adding: “I urge all parties to conflict to refrain from violence and take all necessary measures to protect the boys and girls of Myanmar, in line with national and international law and Security Council resolutions.”

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Stephanie Tremblay / Fabienne Vinet
Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212 963-8285 – Mobile: +1 917 288-5791
vinet@un.org

Hidden Victims: Sexual Violence Against Boys and Men in Conflict

“Sexual violence against boys and men in situations of armed conflict and displacement is a critical problem. It hasn’t been given the attention it deserves by the international community up to now, making this initiative even more important,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), Ms. Virginia Gamba in her opening remarks at a High-Level event on the issue on 11 December 2017. The event was co-organised by the Permanent Missions of Liechtenstein, UK, Switzerland, the All Survivors Project and the Liechtenstein Institute on Self Determination at Princeton University.

Among the six grave violations against children in armed conflict established by the Security Council, “documenting and verifying incidents of rape and sexual violence is often far more challenging,” highlighted SRSG Gamba. Reasons for this comprise a victim’s fear of repercussions by perpetrators and societal stigmatisation, lack of appropriate accountability mechanisms as well as extrajudicial arrangements which compel victims to remain silent.

Representatives from Member States participating in the event also recognised that the issues of sexual violence against boys and men has long been taboo and underdiscussed, often as a result of stigmatisation, problematic legal frameworks, and norms of gender identity.

These factors may arguably be even more pronounced when boys are affected, as the vast majority of cases verified by country task forces on monitoring and reporting pertain to girls. Nevertheless, in several conflict situations covered by CAAC including Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, incidents of rape and sexual violence against boys were documented and verified, which is indicative of a larger phenomenon.

During the discussions, Ms. Gamba emphasized the importance to acknowledge that sexual violence against boys is underreported, making their vulnerability to such abuses little understood and the extent of the problem often overlooked in responses and in prevention and protection strategies.

The current lack of information on boys reinforces the perception that the scourge of sexual violence in armed conflict is one that affects primarily, if not exclusively, women and girls – which in turn reinforces stigma, inhibits males from disclosing their experiences, and prevents them from asking for and receiving assistance and demanding justice. In some conflict situations, torture of boys and men often includes sexual degrading acts, rape or threats of rape and sexual violence, leaving emotional and physical scars which can last a lifetime.

The research undertaken by the All Survivors Project should contribute to a better understanding of the issue, which may in turn inform the work of monitors on the ground, including sensitization and training on how to identify and document cases of sexual violence against boys while adhering to the “do no harm” approach.

Lack of legal protection for boys against rape in many countries affected by armed conflict is also concerning, a result of national legislation which fails to recognise and proscribe rape against males. This contributes not only to impunity, but can inform broader social attitudes and responses in which the possibility of sexual violence against males is not acknowledged.

Accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence against boys was also emphasized by other panellists, including legal frameworks consistent with international human rights standards and sufficient resources for boy survivors to realise their right to justice, truth and reparations.

Ms. Gamba reinforced the importance for states to adopt non-discriminatory legislation on sexual violence and to ensure that legal protection against rape and other forms of sexual violence is provided for boys, girls, men and women. Particular attention should also be paid to situations where boys may be at a heightened risk, such as in detention and in the ranks of armed forces and armed groups.

By the end of the event, there was a consensus on the importance to urgently support the continuous research on the topic, and to help strengthen advocacy among all member states to raise awareness and engage further dialogues on the issue of sexual violence against boys and men in armed conflict.

2016 Annual Report Summary

Joint Statement by the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and for Children and Armed Conflict commending landmark conviction for crimes against humanity by the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Kavumu child rape cases

The Special Representatives of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SVC), Pramila Patten, and for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba welcome the landmark decision by military justice authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the conviction of a provincial parliamentarian and members of the “Army of Jesus” militia for the crimes against humanity of rape for dozens of children in Kavumu, DRC. The crimes occurred on a serial basis between 2013–2016 in the town located in South Kivu province.

“The child survivors of sexual violence in Kavumu, their families, and community have shown tremendous bravery throughout the trial process,” said Special Representative Patten. “I commend their courage and I hope today’s judgment delivers a measure of justice for their suffering.” She noted further that the “judgment and life sentences rendered by military justice authorities is a significant step forward in ending impunity for sexual violence in the DRC.”

SRSGs Patten and Gamba also commended civil society actors for their role. “The case demonstrates that when there is political will, well-trained Government officials, civil society involvement, and an engaged press, there can be justice for sexual violence,” said SRSG Gamba. SRSG Patten added that: “I am pleased that the UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict could be deployed to assist national authorities in the military justice system appropriately to ensure that the Kavumu case was prioritized in accordance with the Joint Communiqué signed by my Office with the Government of the DRC in 2013.”

“Rape and other forms of sexual violence against children remains unfortunately widespread in the DRC, with six parties listed for this grave violation in the latest Secretary-General report on Children and Armed Conflict. This conviction brings hope to all the other victims of sexual violence,” SRSG Gamba said. “However, although the trial has concluded, the justice process is not yet over,” both Special Representatives noted. “The potentially life-changing judgments of reparations that were awarded by the court to the child victims must be paid for justice to be fully delivered and the sentences of the perpetrators must be carried out.”

SRSGs Patten and Gamba urged “the international community to work with the Government of the DRC to ensure resources are made available for the payment of reparations to the survivors and other victims of the Kavumu atrocities.”

For media inquiries, please contact:

Géraldine Boezio: Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, New York. Tel: +1 917 3673306; geraldine.boezio@un.org

Fabienne Vinet: Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, New York. Tel.: +1 212 963- 5986; vinet@un.org

Tribute to Kumar Anuraj Jha, a long-time advocate of children rights on his sudden passing

The Children and Armed Conflict family is profoundly saddened by the loss of a great friend and colleague.

Kumar Anuraj Jha passed away on 30 November in a car accident in Sudan; he was 40 years old.

Anuraj was not only a dedicated and passionate child protection advocate but also a dear friend and colleague, a husband, and a beloved father.

Anuraj began his work on children in armed conflict with the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) as a child protection advisor. There he was instrumental in brokering a successful opening for negotiation of an action plan for the release of hundreds of children associated with the Maoist forces. This agreement and its implementation still stands as a model of how the Security Council’s agenda on children and armed conflict can assist the most vulnerable war-affected children in concrete ways. Anuraj worked for the CAAC Office between 2012 and 2015 going on to join UNICEF Sudan in 2015, where he was working as a Child Protection Specialist.

His contagious enthusiasm was a driving force for his colleagues and his passion for justice pushed him work relentlessly to ensure that all children could get a second chance in life.

Anuraj played a critical role for the children of Sudan by advancing the implementation of the Action Plans on the recruitment and use of children by armed groups and armed forces.

He had recently supported the first ever visit to the country of UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to Sudan

Anuraj is survived by his wife, Jill, and their two amazing and beautiful girls, Anusha (10) and Navya (6).

Though he will be sorely missed, his smile and love of life will live on with us.

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A memorial service will be held on 20 December 2017 from 4-5pm at
UNICEF – Danny Kaye Hall:

3 United Nations Plaza
East 44th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
New York, New York
10017
RSVP: AnurajMemorialNYC@gmail.com

To send messages of condolences to Anuraj’s family : letterstoanuraj@gmail.com

To share photos of Anuraj that will be used for a memorial in Sudan and an album being made for his daughters: https://photos.app.goo.gl/6Wo2vkiPE5vhqNhR2

To contribute to the fundraiser to support Anuraj’s family: https://www.gofundme.com/raising-money-for-anurajs-family

Philippines: UN Officials congratulate MILF for completion of disengagement of children from its ranks

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and UNICEF Philippines held a formal ceremony today in recognition to the removal of the MILF from a UN list of armed groups recruiting and using children. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba and UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Mr. Ola Almgren congratulated the MILF for promoting and protecting the rights of children.

“Today, we mark an important milestone for the boys and girls of the Philippines. The Joint Action Plan between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the United Nations on the issue of recruitment and use of children has now been fully implemented. As a result I am very happy to announce that the MILF has been delisted from the annexes of the Secretary General Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. I would like to congratulate the MILF for completing the action plan with the support of the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting. This achievement is the result of a sustained commitment by the MILF with United Nations support”, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba said in her congratulatory message.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict serves as the leading UN advocate for the protection and well-being of children affected by armed conflict.

United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba announces the delisting of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front from the annexes of the Secretary General Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict

The UN-MILF began working together by signing of an Action Plan between the United Nations and the MILF in 2009. It was completed at the beginning of 2017 upon the fulfillment of a six point road-map, resulting in the disengagement 1,869 children from the ranks of the MILF. The disengagement of children will facilitate their access to appropriate support and services from government and development partners to enjoy all their rights to health, education and protection.

“The United Nations country team in the Philippines welcomes this important milestone achieved by the MILF, in demonstrating its commitment to the protection and welfare of children,” the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, Mr. Ola Almgren, shared in his message. “In line with the UN package of existing programmes to support the normalization track of the peace negotiations between the Government and the MILF, the UN stands ready to support the relevant plans for the disengaged children and their communities,” Mr. Almgren added.

UN children’s agency UNICEF facilitated the completion of the UN-MILF Action Plan which involved training programmes, systematic sensitisation and awareness raising initiatives for the MILF and its communities.

“We congratulate the MILF as they reach this important milestone. Children are zones of peace and their rights must be promoted and protected at all times. UNICEF’s support to the MILF continues to ensure that disengaged children and their communities live in safe environments, by facilitating access to psychosocial support and other protection, social welfare, education and health services. In addition, UNICEF supports parents in providing family based guidance and care,” UNICEF Philippines Representative, Officer-in-Charge, Julia Rees says.

In response, the MILF reiterated its commitment to protect and promote the rights of children in their communities.

“MILF has worked for years in partnership with the UN and we are pleased at being delisted in the 2017 Secretary General’s report and to be recognized here today by our UN country partners,” said Eduard Guerra, former Chair of UN-MILF Action Plan Panel and currently the Co-chair of Joint Normalization Committee – MILF, “MILF will keep up the commitment and the work to protect and promote the inherent rights of every child in our community. Together we will work toward ensuring a peaceful environment and a fair chance for children to enjoy their childhood while having access to education and other essential social services critical for their growth and well-being,” added Mr. Eduard Guerra.

Joint Statement by the Special Representatives of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and for Children and Armed Conflict Regarding Proposed Amendments to the Iraqi Personal Status Law

The Special Representatives of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SVC), Pramila Patten, and for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba urged Iraq to reconsider the draft amendments to the Personal Status Law that alter fundamentally the legal provisions governing marriage. It is a matter of concern that these draft amendments are silent on the minimum age of consent to marriage and do not apply to all components of Iraqi society.

“On 23 September 2016, H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Eshaiker Al-Jaffari, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq, signed with the United Nations a Joint Communiqué formally committing to prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence in the wake of Da’esh’s sexual violence crimes that shocked the world’s conscience. One of the key pillars of the Joint Communiqué is to ‘support legislative and policy reform to strengthen protection from and service response to sexual violence crimes.’

“My Office was repeatedly assured by H.E. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the Speaker of the Council of Representatives Salim al-Jabouri that the fulfilment of each of the pillars of the Joint Communiqué are essential to Iraq’s post-Da’esh reconstruction,” SRSG Patten stated.

“The boys and girls of Iraq, already victims of grave violations resulting from years of conflict, are now at risk of being deprived of their childhood. The Government of Iraq must take all necessary actions to protect every child by preventing the adoption of policies that can harm children already exposed to armed conflict,” SRSG Gamba added.

“The Iraqi Council of Representative’s approval in principle of a draft law that does not explicitly set the minimum age of marriage to eighteen-years- for both women and men would represent a significant step back from those commitments. It could also increase divisions at a time when Iraq is recovering from the impact of the conflict with Da’esh  as well as conflict-related sexual violence,” Patten and Gamba added. They further noted that these proposed legal amendments could lead to possible breaches of Iraq’s legally binding commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

SRSG Patten and Gamba concluded by strongly “urging the Government of Iraq to reconsider these proposed amendments to the Personal Status Law” and reaffirming their commitment “to stand with both the Government and people of Iraq to ensure that the scourge of sexual violence is eliminated and that children affected by armed conflict are protected.”

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For media inquiries, please contact: 

Fabienne Vinet: Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, New York. Tel.: +1 212 963- 5986; vinet@un.org

Letitia Anderson: Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, New York. Tel: +1 212 963 0910; andersonl@un.org