International: Sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict

Women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence in times of heightened armed conflict. They are being raped, abducted for sexual exploitation and forced into marriages and prostitution.
Refugee and internally displaced women and children are especially vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation by armed forces and groups, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.
I was defiled by some older boys [could not remember how many] when we were being marched to the rebel camp. After returning from Sudan, I was a wife to one rebel commander, then another junior commander and then two 'older' rebel soldiers. I had one child who died when he was a few days old. I was a slave to the rebels for 19 months. I do not think I will marry again..
A girl, abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (Machel Report)

Reports from Iraq and southeast Afghanistan indicate that fear of sexual violence is keeping girls out of schools. During her visit to Democratic Republic of Congo in May 2003, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator reported on the situation of over 250 women and girls in South Kivu who required surgical interventions to repair the ravages of rape. Similarly, in Burundi, hundreds of girls have been raped either as a means of ethnic cleansing or because violators believe that children are less likely to transmit diseases.

There is a correlation between the spread of HIV/AIDS and sexual violence and exploitation of girls and women in corridors of wars. UNAIDS estimates that rates of HIV among combatants are three to four times higher than those among local populations. And when rape is used as a weapon of war, the consequences for girls and women are often deadly. Armed conflict also exacerbates other conditions in which HIV/AIDS thrives, such as extreme poverty, displacement and separation. Programmes for HIV/AIDS awareness, care and support in both peace operations and humanitarian programmes should be continued and strengthened.

The IASC Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse has proposed six core principles to be incorporated into codes of conduct for all humanitarian workers. These principles have now been incorporated into codes of conduct in MONUC and UNAMSIL. My forthcoming Bulletin will extend the application of the six principles to all UN personnel.

The Rome Statute of the ICC defines rape and other grave sexual violence as a war crime. Everything must be done to bring to justice those responsible for this particular war crime.