Sudan: Women lawmakers denounce sexual violence during armed conflict in Darfur

Women lawmakers from across the globe on Sunday denounced rape and sexual violence during armed conflict especially in Sudan's volatile region of Darfur.
Speaking in Kenya's capital of Nairobi on Sunday, more than 170 women legislators from 117 countries who are attending the 114th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said the violence against women in Darfur where a three-year conflict has killed thousands of people and displaced million others must be stopped.
"The untold suffering of women in Darfur, western Sudan, in the hands of militants is a worrying trend that must be stopped. Of greatest concern is the reported cases of rape and murder," said Kenyan Assistant Minister of Education, Beth Mugo.

"Kenyan Parliament was until this week debating a bill for enactment of the Sexual Offenses Bill. It prescribes stiffer and enhanced penalties for sexual offenses as way of combating sexual violence against women," Mugo who is also the IPU chairperson of women parliamentarians, added.

More than 1,000 lawmakers from 117 sovereign states are attending a five-day Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting which is due to be officially opened by Kenyan President Kibaki on Sunday night.

The meeting which will be attended by several speakers and senior parliamentary staff from across the globe will discuss the role of lawmakers in forging peace and cooperation in the world.

Issues to deal with political, economic and social situation in the world with the overall theme of promoting democracy and helping build democratic institutions are slated for discussion.

"The state of a society is determined by the consciousness of its women. As leaders, mothers and policy makers of the world, we have the opportunity to make a difference by lifting these words off the pages, into concrete, lasting and progressive solutions to the many problems affecting society," said Mugo.

Kenya's National Assembly Speaker Francis Ole Kaparo said that "women all over the world form the backbone of every home, every society and every nation."

"True, the positions held by the majority of women do not reflect this reality," said Kaparo, who assumes the presidency for the 114th Session of the IPU.

He urged women not to relent in their efforts to have their voices heard and their efforts recognized.

"Women in positions of power need to be assertive. They need to develop mechanisms that will enable them to function well so they can achieve results. Women in authority need to be good role models for the young girls. I strongly believe that in today's rapidly changing globalized world, the role of women parliamentarians is truly essential", he noted.

Speaking on behalf of the IPU Gender Partnership Group, British lawmaker John Austin expressed support for efforts carried out in Kenya to put an end to violence against women through the development of strong legislation on the question.

The vice-president of the IPU Executive Committee, Namibian deputy Margaret Mensah-Williams, who spoke on behalf of the IPU President, Pier Ferdinando Casini said that "men of quality don't feel threatened by women's equality".

"Women hold half the world but not half of the power and the reason why we have the special place to discuss these issues at the IPU is because the IPU secretariat together with the executive committee and the president saw that it is very important to give women a specific time where they can continue discussing pertinentissues around the world and how to build a network with each otherand how to be role models for each other."

This will be the first time a country in East and Central Africa is hosting an IPU meeting which brings together parliaments of sovereign states around the world.

Apart from Kenya, other African countries which have hosted the assembly in the past include Egypt (twice), Cameron, Namibia, Morocco and Burkina Faso.

Established in 1889 and with its headquarters in Geneva, the IPU, the oldest multilateral political organization, currently has 143 affiliated national parliaments and seven associated regional assemblies.