UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Natalia Kanem, says the agency will stand behind survivor-centered investigations and prosecution of allegations of sexual violence.
Kanem said the agency would do “everything possible to disrupt the gender inequalities that feed all forms of gender-based violence”.
Kanem said this in her statement to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, globally commemorated on June 19, to raise awareness of the need to end conflict-related sexual violence.
According to her, this is UNFPA’s reminder that sexual violence in conflict is not “normal” and should be eliminated.
She pointed out that “when wars begin, so does the terror and devastation of sexual violence”.
“The bodies of women and girls become battlefields. Rape is used as a weapon of war just as surely as the bomb that blows up a building or the tank that plows through a crowd.’’
She elaborated on the many consequences of sexual violence, from brutalized bodies to scarred minds, noting that it silenced and shamed women.
The UNFPA chief said sexual violence sowed fear, and insecurity and left a destructive legacy through prolonged disability, sexually transmitted infections, lost wages, health-care costs, and stigma for survivors and their families.
Kanem reminded us that sexual violence is a violation of human rights and a crime under international humanitarian law that should never be ignored, excused, or downplayed.
“In fact, it should not happen at all. It points to the scale and ubiquity of gender inequality and gender-based violence in all societies, everywhere, an unacceptable reality that is only exacerbated by crises and conflict,” she stated.
According to her, regardless of circumstances, all women and girls have inherent rights to be safe, to live in peace and with dignity, and to enjoy freedom and equality.