Associated Press , October 29, 2004
Council Told Sexual Violence Use 'Massive'
DATELINE: UNITED NATIONS -- Sexual violence against
women is taking place "on a massive scale"
in countries in conflict, and the international
response remains inadequate, one of the U.N.'s
highest-ranking women told the Security Council.
Four years after the council adopted a landmark
U.N. resolution committing governments to protect
women from the abuses of war, Thoraya Obaid
- head of the U.N. Population Fund - said "most
women in conflict and post-conflict situations
continue to experience little peace and little
At an open council meeting focusing on implementation
of the resolution, more than 50 speakers said
much more needed to be done. Obaid was among
the toughest in scolding world leaders for
adopting standards and guidelines to protect
women but taking little action on the ground.
"From Afghanistan to Liberia, from Colombia
to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from
Burundi to Darfur - the list goes on and on
- women and girls, and even men and boys, are
being subject to sexual violence, torture and
slavery that defy the imagination and bring
into sharp focus the cruelty that human beings
can inflict on each other," Obaid said.
"It is truly sad, and terribly angering,
to see the tremendous needs. But it is even
more shocking to witness the response so far,
which remains completely inadequate,"
Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for
human rights, told the council that "women
do not seek a special kind of justice."
"However, historically they have been and
continue to be on the receiving end of a special
kind of oppression and abuse," she said.
"This is particularly so in times of conflict
when the rule of force obliterates the rule
Arbour urged the Security Council "to use
all its influence to generate the political
will, as well as the financial support, to
protect women's rights and ensure women's access
Every day, she said, women and young girls who
fled their homes to escape violence in Sudan's
western Darfur region risk being attacked when
they leave camps where they have taken shelter.
Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the U.N.
Development Fund for Women, said the international
community now realize that rape and other violence
against women are systematically used as weapons
of war, and the International Criminal Court
has included rape in its list of war crimes.
But gender-based sex crimes are still carried
out in conflicts, often with impunity, she
"In places such as Haiti and East Timor,
rape has been used to punish wives and female
sympathizers of the enemy," Heyzer said.
"And in many wars and conflicts, rape
has been used as a way of humiliating the men
of the other side, infecting women with HIV/AIDS,
forcing them into sexual slavery and destroying
women's ability to revitalize their communities."
Obaid noted that in Rwanda, two-thirds of the
women who were raped during the 1994 genocide
were infected with the HIV virus "and
they are dying slow painful deaths from AIDS."
These women need anti-retroviral drugs, she
Many speakers lamented that the resolution's
call for countries in conflict to give women
a major voice at peace talks has gone largely
unheeded - as has its call for the United Nations
to give women top jobs in conflict resolution.
Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie
Guehenno noted that women constitute only 1
percent of military personnel in U.N. peacekeeping
operations and that "peace processes and
negotiations remain overwhelmingly male-dominated
arenas." Of the 27 U.N. special representatives
in charge of U.N. peace operations, only two
are women, he said.
He cited about 70 allegations of sexual exploitation
and abuse against U.N. peacekeeping personnel
this year just in the Congolese city of Bunia.
At the end of the daylong meeting, Britain's
U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current
council president, read a statement from the
council strongly condemning "the continued
acts of gender-based violence in situations
of armed conflict."
The council urged "the complete cessation"
of all violence and human rights abuses against
women, stressed the need to punish the perpetrators,
and called for an immediate increase in the
number of women in all operations to prevent
conflict and promote peace.
<< Associated Press -- 10/29/04 >>
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