Ripple effect of sexual violence in conflict threatens ‘collective security’, stains ‘our common humanity’, says UN chief 

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Calling the scourge “a tactic of war, to terrorize people and to destabilize societies”, he underscored that its effect can echo across generations through trauma, stigma, poverty, long-term health issues and unwanted pregnancy. He urged that survivors should be heard and their needs recognized. 

“They are mostly women and girls, but also men and boys, calling for our support to access life-saving health services, justice and reparation”, he elaborated.  

The day also honours those “working on the frontlines”, said the UN chief, “directly assisting victims to rebuild their lives”.  

“Our global response must include more concerted action to ensure accountability for the perpetrators – and to address the gender inequality that fuels these atrocities”, stressed Mr. Guterres, adding that “together, we can and must replace impunity with justice; and indifference with action”. 

‘Grave human rights violation’ 

Sexual violence in conflict constitutes “a grave human rights violation with devastating physical, psychological and social consequences” that “impede economic development, social cohesion and sustainable peace and security”, said Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, in a joint statement marking the day. 

While women and girls are “disproportionately the first targets both in times of war and peace”, they highlighted that men and boys are also affected.   

“Sexual violence is a crime that is preventable, not inevitable”, they maintained, which they say is why the UN and EU are committed to strengthen their work in “prevention, protection and prosecution, as well as in terms of holistic support to survivors to help them rebuild their lives and livelihoods within their families and communities”.  

The women noted that the Security Council’s call for a “survivor-centred approach” aims to guide prevention and response to empower those affected and minimize their risks of social ostracism, stigma and reprisals.  

“Ensuring access to comprehensive quality services, including medical care, sexual and reproductive health care, psychosocial support, legal advice and livelihood assistance for victims is therefore key”, they spelled out.  

Ultimately, however, they said actions can only make a lasting difference “if they are accompanied by a shift in social attitudes”, such as by raising awareness, amplifying victims’ voices, and ensuring women’s participation in decision-making and peace processes.  

“States, international and regional organizations, private sector and civil society all have a role to play in challenging harmful gender norms and preventing sexual violence”, they flagged, underscoring the need to continue working together to “end impunity for perpetrators” and “guarantee access to justice, protection and services for survivors”.  

“Their voices, rights and needs must guide our response to foster more equitable and peaceful societies”, concluded Ms. Mogherini and Ms. Patten. 

More to come on this story later.