New UN-Arab League agreement aims to prevent conflict-related sexual violence

In Cairo, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura (left), and Nabil el-Araby, Secretary-General of the League of the Arab States (right), sign agreement of cooperation. Photo: Manel Stambouli

29 March 2016 – The United Nations and the League of Arab States today signed an agreement to strengthen collaboration on prevention of conflict-related sexual violence in the Arab region.

The agreement was signed in Cairo, Egypt, by the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, and Nabil el-Araby, Secretary-General of the League of the Arab States. It is meant to form the foundation on which to mobilize political commitment and collaborate in combatting rape and other instances of conflict-related sexual violence, particularly in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen

“This framework of cooperation gives us a platform to join and reinforce our efforts, and together build a comprehensive response in the security, justice and service sectors,” said Special Representative Bangura, who is also a UN Under-Secretary-General.

That will include deeper information sharing and analysis, training and capacity building, and providing medical and psychosocial services to survivors and their families, according to a press release from the Office of the Special Representative.

The agreement also cites the role of civil society, as well as religious and traditional leaders “to help shift the stigma of sexual violence from the victims to the perpetrators” and to ensure that survivors and the potential children they bear as a result of the crimes, are accepted back into their communities, the Office said.

“Ultimately it is my hope that the focused engagement of the Arab League will catalyze greater national leadership, ownership and responsibility among its member countries to protect vulnerable women, children and men from sexual violence,” Mrs. Bangura added.

While in Egypt, the UN Special Representative met with Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, whose title of Grand Imam of Al Azhar makes him one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islamic thought.

During their meeting, Mrs. Bangura received assurance of the Sheikh's commitment to speaking out against conflict-related sexual violence, particularly in the context of acts by extremist groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram, according to the press release.

“This is an affront to the most sacred and fundamental tenets of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance,” Mrs. Bangura said, referring to what she calls “perverting” of Islam by groups that attempt to give religious justification for sexual slavery and other acts of violence against women and girls.


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