Security Council Condemns Sexual Violence In War
UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution condemning sexual violence in military conflicts.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presided over the September 30 council meeting, which called on governments to act decisively to end the scourge.
Drawing on the dark experience of Rwanda genocide in 1994, in which half a million women were raped, Clinton told the Security Council that the role and rights of women have become a major foreign policy issue.
"The role and rights of women in today's world is a critical, core concern of foreign policy. It is national security," Clinton said. "Of course it has a moral, and human, and social, and economic dimension. But the more we know about conflicts, the more we realize that women -- who do not start conflicts -- are often the victims. But women have tremendous potential for being peacemakers and peacekeepers."
In various reports during the last two decades the world body has recognized that up to 60,000 women were attacked during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and hundreds of thousands of women were subjected to sexual violence amid a long-running conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The conflict in Congo reverberates embarrassingly for the UN in that context, since the emergence of evidence that members of the UN peacekeeping teams were procuring sexual favors from minors.
Speaking at the opening of the Security Council's meeting on September 30, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that most such crimes go unpunished, leaving their victims with shattered bodies and ruined lives.
"Despite some progress in responding to sexual violence in armed conflict the deliberate targeting of civilians continues unabated including on a widespread systemic basis," Ban said. "Sexual violence in armed conflict or indeed at any time should have no place and find no haven in the world."
The resolution as passed says that "ending impunity is essential if a society in conflict or recovering from conflict is to come to terms with past abuses committed against civilians affected by armed conflict and to prevent future such abuses."
Clinton said U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged that his administration will be actively engaged to support the rights of women and girls globally and establish a legal framework for their protection in war zones.
"We will do more to prevent violence against women and girls, particularly sexual violence as we focused on in the resolution today," Clinton said. "But we will also do more to end the conflicts that have made women and children their primary victims."
Some human rights groups have criticized the UN for taking too long to act on the issue.
Ban said that the UN will aim to include women's protection advisers within peacekeeping missions and to deploy large numbers of women in police and military personnel.
"States and other parties to conflict must uphold their international legal obligations," Ban said. "The international community must do more to prevent violence, protect individuals, punish perpetrators, and provide redress to victims."
Although the resolution was adopted unanimously by the Security Council it has so far garnered the support of only 61 of the United Nations' 192 member states.