On World Day, Ban declares era of impunity ‘over’ for sexual violence in war

Marking the first International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that the era of impunity for sexual violence as a tool of war is over, citing a host of landmark rulings against political and military leaders.

You can read the statement of the Secretary-General below:

“The world continues to witness appalling levels of sexual violence in wartime. No region is immune to this scourge, which continues to affect women, girls, boys and men.

There has also been clear progress and unprecedented political momentum to address these crimes.

Sexual violence is now widely recognized as a deliberate strategy used to shred the fabric of society; to control and intimidate communities and to force people from their homes. It is rightly seen as a threat to international peace and security, a serious violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, and a major impediment to post-conflict reconciliation and economic development.

There have been landmark cases against political and military leaders, demonstrating that the era of impunity for sexual violence as a tool of war is over. I pay tribute today to the many thousands of caregivers, medical practitioners, advocates, and others on the frontline of this battle, who are fighting for change.

However, we still face serious challenges.

One extremely disturbing aspect is the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism. Daesh, Boko Haram and other extremist groups are using sexual violence as a means of attracting and retaining fighters, and to generate revenue.

Abducted women, men, girls and boys suffer the most terrible trauma through brutal physical and sexual assault, child and forced marriages and sexual slavery on a massive scale.

The abduction of more than 200 girls from Chibok in Nigeria, and the continued tragedy of women and girls subjected to forced marriage or sexual slavery by extremist groups in the Middle East, are two of the most horrific examples of the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism. I call for the immediate release of all those taken captive, and for the care and support of those who return, who can suffer from social isolation and depression.

Women and girls with children may need specialized medical and psycho-social support, and this must extend to the children themselves, who can suffer complete rejection.

The shame and social stigma faced by these women and children should be redirected towards the brutal perpetrators of violence.

We must continue to speak up for the women, girls, men and boys whose bodies for too long have been considered the spoils of war.”

On 19 June 2015, the UN General Assembly (A/RES/69/293) proclaimed 19 June of each year the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world and to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.

The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption on 19 June 2008 of Security Council resolution 1820 (2008), in which the Council condemned sexual violence as a tactic of war and an impediment to peacebuilding.

This article was adapted from a text published by the UN News Centre