“I returned from Bangladesh...and sent all of my dresses for dry cleaning. I have not worn these dresses again. I can't wear them. There's too much pain...because I came out and I was wet with all the women crying. I like to open the wardrobe and remind myself of the survivors at all times. They are my moral compass and I have to keep fighting for them. This is what keeps me going.”

Pramila Patten is the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict whose work aims to end rape as a weapon of war, making it a crime that is both preventable and punishable. Pramila travels the world to meet survivors, carrying back the harrowing survivor they entrust her to retell. She then advocates tirelessly on their behalf for accountability and justice.



Transcript and multimedia


Melissa Fleming 00:00

From the United Nations. I'm Melissa Fleming and this is Awake At Night. Joining me today here in the studio is Pramila Patten, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Pramila, welcome to Awake At Night. And I'm going to ask you about your job later but first, I'd like to ask you how you got here. You're from Mauritius. Did you imagine when you were a young girl that you would have had the kind of international career that you have had up till now?


Pramila Patten 00:50     

Certainly not, and Melissa, thank you for having me. I was born in a very small country, Mauritius back in 1958, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, cut off from the rest of the world. I travelled for the first time when I was 18 when I went to London for my studies, and even in those days, I considered myself to be amongst the lucky ones, because my father was like, very open. And in those days, girls were not going abroad. I recall… My father was a jeweller by profession, not an intellectual like the rest of the family. And I recall how my uncles were very upset with him, when he actually told them that I was going to London to study law. Because in those days, that was the only option. If you wanted to be a barrister, you had to study in the UK. And that's when it would be recognised in the country. 

And they were very upset. ‘Why do you send your daughter and invest so much in her in the UK, and then she's just gonna get married.’ And that was the reasoning and they were saying, ‘Oh, you sent your son to India’ because my brother went to one of the best universities for mathematics. And he chose to go to Madras Christian College and my uncles were very upset that you invest in your daughter, and you did not send your son to the UK. 

And that was the kind of dynamics at the time so I was amongst the lucky ones because I had the kind of father that went out of his way to ensure that his four daughters were not discriminated against. I come from a large family of six, I have two brothers and three sisters. And my father made it a point that no one would actually discriminate against his daughters so... 

But I never imagined, at best, I thought I was going to be a practising barrister in the country. Initially, I thought I was going to be a teacher because I wanted to do economics and then when I had, like, eight months as a junior teacher in a high school, before going to university, I realised that teaching was not for me and, and that's when I decided to go for law. But here I am, the trajectory has been completely different from the one that I could imagine.

Pramila stands in a row of female peacekeeping officers in uniform.


Melissa Fleming 03:19

What was it about your father that made him so enlightened?


Pramila Patten 03:24

Strangely enough, I mean, my father came from India when he was 18 years old. And on my mother's side, they were more traditional. Her father came from Singapore, her mother came from Sri Lanka. She was more conservative and my dad always made it a point. He was genuinely a feminist. He was the first feminist that I met. And I recall over simple issues like they would refer to my brothers as your gold and he would say then my girls are my diamonds. He will always counterbalance everything that people had to say. 

And the other person that influenced me has been my maternal grandmother who was also a very strong woman. She went into the sari business and believed in women's empowerment. And when my Mum was travelling a lot, she would actually come and stay with us and she influenced me a lot about you know, the sky's the limit for you girls as well. I started as a very shy girl but picked up along the way.


Melissa Fleming 04:32

Just describe the environment that you grew up in, was it in a city or were you in the countryside?


Pramila Patten 04:37

No, we lived in the city. In the capital, but I had, like, stronger sisters, so I was like a little bit caught in the middle, and was quite subdued as a young girl, living with two very strong sisters and my father helped me out and he really gave me the necessary boost. And he really believed in me and, and he was very proud of everything I did until on his deathbed actually, he was... The very last night before he went into a coma and passed away, the next day he was talking about my career. My international work. He took a very keen interest in everything that I was doing. And I really miss that.


Melissa Fleming 05:20

You’re very lucky to have a dad like that or to have had a dad like that. I think most people when they think of Mauritius, they think of a kind of tropical paradise. What was it like for you, how did you see your environment?


Pramila Patten 05:36

Well, we didn't come from a very rich family so we had a good life, but fairly modest. So in those days as a child, I cannot say that I enjoyed the hotels and the beaches or anything like that. We just had a good life and my, my dad made sure that, you know, for him, the priority was education. And he always told us, that's your passport to life and he said, ‘I'm not going to leave a lot of property for you. But your education will be your passport for life.’ 

And it was a struggle. At any point in time, there was always a child that was abroad and the rupee I recall when I left in ‘78, it was fine and a year later, the Mauritian rupee devalued and it was a big blow to my father as a jeweller. It was quite a struggle. But that's what he believed in.


Melissa Fleming 06:42

What was it like when you first arrived in the UK as someone who'd never travelled?


Pramila Patten 06:46

Well, I stayed on a bed and breakfast basis with an Irish family that were very nice to me. And they adopted me like their own daughter. They felt sorry for me, because I didn't have a clue as to how to go shopping. I recall asking them to let their daughter come with me, because I had to go to the grocery store and in Mauritius in those days, we had tiny shops, you know, and there I was going to Safeway and Sainsbury's and not having a clue where to go, what to buy. And I recall her name was Susan and I said, ‘Susan, what does your mum buy?’ Because my mum did everything. And, you know, I didn't I never had to worry about anything, food or anything. 

And she said, ‘Milk’ and I said, ‘No, I don't take milk’. ‘Tea’, I said ‘No, I don't take tea.’ And we went on like this. ‘Coffee?’ ‘No, I don't take coffee.’ And then we went back and she told her Mum poor Pramila doesn't have a clue what to buy. And that's when she offered, she said, ‘Well, would you like to eat with us? Then okay, we'll look at the rent, we'll adjust it so that you also eat with us, etc.’ And it was so nice. So they were really nice and I was in my comfort zone with a family ambience and it was very nice.


Melissa Fleming 08:10

Which university in which city?


Pramila Patten 08:13

I was at the UCL for my first degree


Melissa Fleming 08:16

So you were in London?


Pramila Patten 08:17

Yes, I was in London.


Melissa Fleming 08:18

You ended up becoming a barrister. So you did go back to your home country Mauritius and you did enter or start a practice there or join a law firm?


Pramila Patten 08:28

Yes, in those days, there were no chambers. So you could basically start on your own. But I did join a senior counsel. I joined him and then he was appointed as High Commissioner to India. So I was left on my own. Then I joined someone else who, a few months later, became the Minister of Foreign Affairs. So I inherited all his cases and that's how I really started. 

It took me a couple of years before I could really get into the corporate world. But in the meantime, my interest went into something else - the plight of women in my country, the plight of children. 


Melissa Fleming 09:09

What made you start to become interested in the plight of women and children?

Pramila Patten sitting with many women holding their hands as they tell their harrowing srtories.
Pramila Patten sitting with many women holding their hands as they tell their harrowing stories


Pramila Patten 09:15

I had lots of cases. I was, like, very busy and I also joined politics, if you can call it that way. I was elected and I was appointed as deputy mayor. Up until 1980, women had the same status as minors or handicapped people, [they] could not have a passport, could not have a bank account without the permission of their husband. According to the law, it was spelled black on white that you owe obedience to your husband. So that was the status of the law. And it got changed just before the elections in 1982. But women didn't know.

I was going to court in divorce cases, [you] wouldn't see the women fighting for their kids or fighting even the divorce. There would be no representation so divorce would be pronounced in absentia. Children would be awarded to husbands. No payment of alimony and I was very, very frustrated by this state of affairs. Then I started in the constituency talking to the women and I realised that it's not only that they did not know the laws but they didn't know that the law was there for them. And I realised that that's where I had to start, like, teaching them about the role of the law to promote their social, economic, civil, political rights. 

So I went up to the Minister of Women, Children and Family Development, and I told her, ‘Listen, I'm a young lawyer. I want to help out. This is the situation.’ And she was very receptive. And I said, ‘Let's do this all country “know your rights campaign”. And she said, ‘Yes’, and that's how I started. And then the government appointed me to chair the task force, two task forces, because I realised that the government had not even ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. So I lobbied for them to ratify CRC, which they did. 

And then they appointed me on two different task forces: one to look at all discriminatory laws against women and to make recommendations and one to to look at the laws on children and to make sure that it's in line with CRC that the government had just ratified. I got very involved in CEDAW which for me is like such an important tool. And that's when my international work really started. And I served for four terms on CEDAW. 


Melissa Fleming 11:40



Pramila Patten 11:41

...is the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. We have done inquiries in Mexico on the killing of women, on violence against women. We have done inquiries in Kyrgyzstan on bride kidnapping. We've had cases against Peru of a young girl who had been raped, and was not getting access to abortion and she threw herself from the sixth floor. She fell and was taken for surgery, and she was paralysed. And the doctors refused within the delay to give her access to abortion. And we found that Peru was in violation and ordered them to pay compensation.


Melissa Fleming 12:28

There're so many cases and I can see there's a glimmer in your eyes when you're talking about them. 


Pramila Patten 12:36

Because these are real cases, real people. 


Melissa Fleming 12:39

During all this time, it sounds like you kept yourself extremely busy. Did you have any time for private life, doing fun things?


Pramila Patten 12:48

Oh, yes. I mean, like, I raised a son who is now 28, who was also very supportive. He's very supportive of my work. We've travelled a lot. I mean, because of him, I will actually take my two holidays every year. So in the summer and over Christmas and New Year, I would actually leave the country because at least I get a real break because as a practising barrister, people phone you at any time of the day or night, you know, and so I had to get away from the country. And no, I think I've been able to reconcile my family responsibilities and my work and had a good balance.


Melissa Fleming  13:33

I’m sure he's very proud of you. Now you are the Secretary General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. What does it mean to you personally, to be working on the question of sexual violence?


Pramila Patten 13:49

It means a lot because I see a lot of scope in this mandate. It is a Security Council mandate which is a new mandate, I must say. It was resolution 1888, adopted in 2009 and yet sexual violence in conflict, if you look at the history of war and conflicts around the world, and time immemorial, sexual violence has been used in every war, in every conflict as a tactic of war. 

And when we’re talking about sexual violence in conflict, we talking about one of history's greatest silence, we’re talking about a crime that has been the least reported and the least condemned. So it took, in fact resolution 1820 in 2008, to acknowledge that sexual violence in conflict exacerbates conflict when used or commissioned as a tactic of war, and that it is a threat to international peace and security. 

For the first time, you have sexual violence being part of peace and security policy. For the first time, you have the Security Council looking at war and conflict through the eyes of women and girls whose bodies have been part of the battlefield. I mean, just to give you a few examples. During the genocide in Rwanda that lasted 100 days in 1994, between 200-500 thousands women were raped. Liberia, over 40,000 during the Civil War. Sierra Leone over 60,000. Bosnia Herzegovina, former Yugoslavia over 60,000. These are the figures that we are talking about so, for me, this mandate offers a lot of possibilities to address sexual violence in conflict, at long last, and we have come a long way. 

We have come a long way since 2009. There's still a lot more to do because sexual violence continues to be used as a tactic of war, terror, and political repression. Just read a newspaper and you see what's happening in Tigray right now. But I think there has been a significant paradigm and perspective shift over the past 10/11 years. We are today reaching thousands of victims, the UN I’m talking about, the UN system is today reaching numerous survivors that were not so long ago, invisible and inaccessible.


Melissa Fleming 16:43

Just backtracking because you mentioned that the Security Council recognised that rape as a weapon of war exacerbates conflict and even extends conflict. Why is it used as a tactic?




Pramila Patten 16:57

It is used as a tactic to, to humiliate, to dominate, to instil fear and to displace, disperse the population. When you start raping women and children, that's when the whole village will actually leave. You look at Myanmar. Rape was used, rape and gang rape, was used as part of the ethnic cleansing. To get rid of the Rohingya Muslim living in Rakhine.


Melissa Fleming 17:34

I know you yourself, actually, as part of your function, you travel to some of the places to meet some of the victims and you've must have heard terrible accounts. Can you just, perhaps, tell us one that has really stuck with you?


Pramila Patten 17:51

Well, field visits are very important for me because it's part of my job to unmute the voices of survivors. To bring the voices of survivors to the national, regional and international arena. So because, for me, the face of the mandate is that of a survivor, my moral compass in steering the mandate is about survivors. I will tell you about my first field mission, I took office in June and in July, I was in Nigeria, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria. And I saw these young girls who had been released from Boko Haram. I call them girls because they were not older than 12-13 year old, and they all had tiny babies on their laps. 

And talking to them, I realised that their ordeal was not over after their release from Boko Haram because within the camp, they were being stigmatised for bearing Boko Haram babies. And I recall how I was shocked when I met some of them in a smaller group and they told me, ‘You know, we were better off with our so-called Boko Haram husband. We were forcibly married to them. And we got pregnant. It was forced marriage, forced pregnancy, but we were not being abused daily as we are in the town. And we go and fetch water, we are abused by the men and women, everyone on the camp.’

And it was my first lesson about stigmatisation and not only of the mother but also of the child. And that's why, for example, I immediately started... because I saw those babies. And then I met with the authorities and I said ‘What is the situation of these babies? They have no name. They have no birth certificate. They have no nationality. They will be radicalised. You know, they are prone to be radicalised.’ And I started working and I realised that there was a huge policy gap on children born of rape, that even the Convention on the Rights of the Child… I signed a framework of cooperation with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and I said, ‘You've never done any work on those children born of rape, who are stateless?’ 

Pranila Patten is sitting on the floor facing another woman who has a baby on her lap. In the background is a large number of women and girls.

And in 2019, I got a resolution from the Security Council for the first time speaking about children born of rape having rights. Then from Nigeria, I went to DRC. And when I went to DRC, I recall, I met with women in Goma who made such a strong case to me about the link between their physical security and their economic security. And they taught me a great lesson about how with economic security, they regain their self esteem and they become resilient because they can look after their families and I also learned the painful truth about their lives of rape, followed by rejection. 

Most of these women had been rejected by their spouses, by their families, by their communities, just like the young girls that I've met in Maiduguri, Nigeria. This is a crime which is the least condemned where the perpetrators are shielded, and the stigma is on the victim. And that's why the office has done a lot of work in terms of shifting that stigma back to the perpetrator. 

Four years down the line, I see how today's survivors are more forthcoming. They want to speak about their experience. Currently, we are working on a digital book, The Voices of Survivors, they want the whole world to know what they've gone through. And talking about stories, every field mission is like very heart wrenching. One story's more heart wrenching than the other. You know, it breaks your heart to know to hear about the brutality of the sexual violence. 

But my first encounter with the Yazidi women in Mosul. To see that trauma I mean, like I was sitting in front of women who looked like living corpses sitting in front of me and I had a psychiatrist who told me that many of these women had been released a few months ago and they were released in a semi comatose state. And I realised that not a single one of them had any medical or psychosocial support. At times, there was medical services available in the camp, but they were so frightened together to reach out for psychosocial support because they were scared that they would be arrested. They would be interrogated and treated as affiliates, having lived with Daesh for three, four years some of them. It was a very painful reality.


Melissa Fleming 23:21

These were Yazidi women who, when ISIS came into their communities, took them, stole them and made them into their sex slaves.


Pramila Patten 23:32

Made them made them as sexual slaves and the average Yazidi woman that you talk to, especially the younger ones, they have been sold numerous times, raped more than 20 times a day. And the average time that they've spent is like three to four years.


Melissa Fleming 23:53

We've all heard those horror stories about the Yazidi and also some positive stories around breaking the stigma. The community leaders were... did make the decision to accept that. 


Pramila Patten 24:09

My predecessor actually met with the late Baba Sheikh and did an amazing job in influencing the Baba Sheikh to accept the women. And he embraced the women and they came back but when I went, I heard their heart wrenching story about the hard choice that they had to make to leave their children behind. 

And in fact, many did not return because they did not want to leave their children behind. Because according to the laws, a child is regarded to be Yazidi, if both parents are Yazidi. And also according to the law of the land, a child whose father is unknown, he's deemed to be Muslim, the solution was there to amend the law, but that is not something that's so easy. And up to now, these children are spread out in different orphanages. They don't have a name, they don't have a birth certificate, and even a nationality, the stories are terrible. 


Melissa Fleming 25:11

So the punishment extends for their whole lives of having gone through this hell and it has a ripple effect throughout the communities.


Pramila Patten 25:21

Absolutely. And it's a good thing that Iraq enacted the legislation very recently, like less than a month ago, for the Yazidi community and other communities to provide for reparations, education, employment, etc. But there's nothing in it about the children. And I was also in Cox's Bazar in 2017, where I met with the Rohingya, and I went in different camps and the brutality of the sexual violence is unimaginable. Where every person you speak to would talk about gang rape. So much so that I asked the interpreter, ‘do you know that there is a word rape? And then gang rape?’ And she said, ‘What do you want me to tell you if they are saying that they were raped by 10 men, 10 soldiers.’ And then I realised that she knew what she was talking about.

Because it was all about gang rape and the way it was happening in public spaces, in front of their husband, in front of their neighbours. And they all had similar stories about being tied to rocks, being tied to trees, and raped by multiple soldiers. And they talked about their younger daughters being raped inside while they had to lie naked in the village waiting for the turn. And the house being torched with their daughters inside the house. 

I recall, it was very hot. It was November, and they were clinging to their babies. And, you know, covering their babies. And then I asked them, ‘Are you okay? I mean, like, is the baby okay?’ And then they started talking and they said, ‘No, we are the lucky ones with our babies.’ They've seen so many babies being thrown in the fire and then they started crying. And they were saying, during that year to 2017, that they could not sleep with the doors open, that the Tatmadaw would regularly visit their place at any time of the day or night. And if there is a baby, newly born, they would take the baby and they would throw the baby in the village well, and then they will be deprived of water because the dead bodies in that well. It was terrible. 

I mean, there was a day when there were 500 women there and we didn't have any psychologist so we said we're not going to hear any stories. And we came to meet with them, etc. And they said, ‘No, no, no, we want you to, to hear our stories.’ And I said… they were so insistent and then the major general who was there, he said, ‘You really have to listen to them. They've been waiting for you all day, and you really have to listen to them.’ So I said, ‘Okay, it's going to be one-to-one and the women knew that if I do it one-to-one, I will never end. They said, ‘No, we all know each other's stories, and we want to talk to you.’

So they started, you know, they were crying and everybody in that room was crying. And each one had a similar story about gang rape, about family members having been killed right in front of them. And they will tell you their ordeal, how they cross the river, how they helped each other. And then there was this young girl who was like 13-years-old. And I said ‘No, I mean, I can't listen to a 12-13 year old.’ 

And she said ‘No, she will’ and they all told me ‘No, you have to listen to her story.’ And she came and she grabbed me and she started calling me Mama Mama. And she said, you know, I mean, like she's lost. She has no one. Her parents have been killed right in front of her and she pointed to the neighbour who helped her and she's been raped and they still helped her. Do you know, I turned around. I mean, like everybody was crying. 

I mean, like me, our staff, the interpreter, and I didn't know what to do and I was like, consoling her then I said, ‘Let us pray.’ I don't know where the idea came. I'm not a Muslim, but I said, ‘Let us pray together.’ People were screaming. They were crying their hearts out and they all calmed down. And I said, ‘Let's pray, let’s pray together.’ Spent like 30 minutes, complete silence in the room. And then I left and when I walked out, there was this other woman waiting for me and Major General told me you have to see her because she didn't want to speak to you with the others. And she was in a wheelchair and she just removed the cover. And she said, I survived the rape, but I did not survive the land mines. And her legs had been amputated and she related her. 

You know, Melissa, I returned from Bangladesh, and I was wearing cotton outfits, those Indian dresses, all cotton, I dry cleaned them in Bangladesh, I brought them to New York, sent all of my dresses for dry cleaning. I have not worn these dresses again, but I've put them in one side of the wardrobe. But in the room that my son usually uses when he comes to New York, so one day he called me and said, ‘Mum, why are your stuff in my wardrobe?’ 

Then I looked at those dresses, and I told him, ‘These are the dresses that I don't want to throw away.’ But there's so much pain because I came out and I was, like, wet with all the women crying. And I said, ‘You know, I don't want to throw them, to give them away, because I need them to remind me about what these women go through. But I can't, I can't wear them. There's too much pain. I'm sorry, you know, but just forget about these dresses.’ And he said, ‘Oh, they are beautiful dresses’ and I said ‘No, I can't, I can't wear them.’ 

And it's for one year that I have not conducted field missions, I like to open the wardrobe and look at these dresses, and remind myself of the survivors at all times. And this is what keeps me going. People asked me, I mean, like, ‘Don't you need psychosocial support yourself?’ Because, as a barrister, I used to share my work even with my son. My husband was also a lawyer so we used to discuss and I used to share my work. 

But this work, I cannot share with anyone except my staff. And, you know, we talk amongst ourselves. This is not something I can talk to anyone. I tell people who asked me about my coping mechanism, I say ‘I open that wardrobe, I look at those dresses and it reminds me of these women and their resilience.’ They are my moral compass and I have to keep fighting for them. And this is what keeps me going.


Melissa Fleming 32:47

And what keeps you awake at night?

Pramila Patten stands next to a seated crowd and addresses them.


Pramila Patten 32:52

Yes. I had a video of surgical intervention in a medical facility in Tigray. And it was about a doctor removing two nails from the body of a young woman who had been taken as a sexual slave for ten days, raped multiple times and eventually, she made her way to a medical facility and the doctor removed two nails. I removed my glasses because I didn’t want to watch it. And several foreign objects. And I didn't sleep. And I told my staff about it. But I said I'm not going to send any one of you this video. I'm not going to delete it. But I will not send it to you. But I told everyone about it. 

This is what women go through. Their bodies become the battlefields. And now my focus is taking this mandate forward, to focus on prevention. We talk about prevention and response. But in fact, we ended up doing more response. And I'm working on a Prevention Framework. Because each time I meet a survivor, I always ask ‘What could have been done? What could have prevented what happened to you?’ And you will be surprised Melissa, the kind of answers that you get. 

I recall in DRC, mothers told me, you know, ‘My four year old and my eight year old daughter were raped while I was collecting water in the forest. If they were at school, they would not have been raped. But we live in remote villages.’ That's where it's happening. Or you will talk to women in Sudan or in Somalia and they will tell you we have to walk to collect water. And if there was a water point in the village, we would not have to walk this long distance in remote areas. 

In Juba in South Sudan, the women were telling me, ‘We get raped all the time when we go out.’ And then I asked a very naive question, I said, ‘But why would you go out to collect firewood? Why don't the men go out?’ And they were upset. They said, ‘Please come with me. Do you want to see where the men are? There's a cemetery right there. That's where they are. They get killed. We only get raped.’

And then they told me, ‘Yes, peacekeepers, they escort us. But then there is a point where they cannot because of the bushes, etc, we have to go deeper into the bushes to collect the wood. So they leave us at a certain point and that's where we get raped.’ And then they tell me, but you know, ‘The Japanese did give stoves and they gave stoves to the older women. And we don't have stoves, so we have to go and collect firewood, and we get raped.’


Melissa Fleming 35:50

What does justice feel like to you once you do have a breakthrough and there is actually some kind of recognition that this was a crime and the victim is somehow compensated?

Photo of a computer screen that is on the webpage "the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict" and a smartphone with  Virginia Gamba and Pramila Patten.


Pramila Patten 36:03

For me, we cannot talk about prevention without justice and accountability. For me, the fight against sexual violence is a fight against impunity. And we have to keep working at it. It is true that justice is the rare exception and impunity is the rule. But we have to continue to work. We have to keep sending a strong signal to perpetrators and would-be perpetrators, that it's not going to be cost free to rape a woman, a girl, a man or a boy, that we will get you. 

When you talk to Yazidi women, they tell you they want justice and reparations, in addition to support services, wherever. Whether it is Iraq, whether it is it is Nigeria, whether it is in Somalia or Sudan, they tell you they want to have their day in court. And for me, that is very frustrating that so far, for example, where sexual violence is used as a tactic of terrorism, no single person belonging to Boko Haram or ISIS has been prosecuted for sexual violence. They are getting prosecuted under the counter terrorism legislation, but not for sexual violence. And that is a frustration. 

So I have been talking to the authorities and for example, in Iraq, the Chief of the Judicial Council told me, ‘It is much easier for us to prove affiliation to convict and we have the death penalty.’ So for him, that's easy. And I tell him, ‘You will have no historical record of what the women went through.’ But that's that's where we are. 


Melissa Fleming 37:50

It's well known that the majority of the victims are women and girls, but there are accounts of men also being raped as a weapon of war in some conflicts?


Pramila Patten 38:04

Absolutely. In almost every of the 18 countries that my mandate is currently covering, we've had reports of sexual violence against men and boys in every single of these countries. Very much in detention settings. And when I took office in 2017, I said that I will not feminise the mandate because I have a mandate to prevent and respond sexual violence against equally men and boys. You know that there are so many countries where there is simply no law to prosecute the rape of a man or boy. They are men, they are boys, they are women, they are girls, but they are also Indigenous women. They are women's human rights defenders. They are LGBTQI persons. They are persons with disabilities. So that's why, for me, the survivor centred approach is so important, in everything that we do.


Melissa Fleming 39:00

I wonder what do you do to kind of relax or have fun?


Pramila Patten 39:05

Well, with COVID there has not been much scope for that. But I love music and, yes, that has been - for the past year - that has been my, my escape. And I have tried to switch off in the evening and to just focus on my music. I do a little bit of yoga, also. But I enjoy the work. I am driven. You know, I work with passion. It's not a job. It's about leaving a legacy doing something very concrete that will impact on the lives of these survivors. What I want is that we can... the day we can do away with this mandate.


Melissa Fleming 39:51

Well, it sounds like you have much work to do ahead, but you've accomplished so much on behalf of the people who have suffered so much from sexual violence and conflict. So I really like to thank you for joining us here on Awake At Night, Pramila.


Pramila Patten 40:07

Thank you, Melissa.


Melissa Fleming 40:18

Thank you for listening to Awake At Night. We'll be back soon with more incredible and inspiring stories from people working to do some good in This world at a time of global crisis. To find out more about the series and the extraordinary people featured, do visit un.org/awake-at-night. On Twitter, we're @UN and I'm @melissafleming. Pramila is @USGSRSGPatten. Subscribe to awake at night wherever you get your podcasts and please take the time to review us. It does help others find us. 

Thanks to my producers Bethany Bell, and the team at Chalk & Blade: Laura Sheeter, Cheri Percy, Fatuma Khaireh, and Alex Portfelix, and to my colleagues at the UN; Roberta Politi, Darrin Farrant, Hillary He, Tulin Battikhi, and Bissera Kostova. Also, many thanks to my colleagues here at the UN studio and to the UN Office on the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 

The original music for the podcast was written and performed by Nadine Shah and produced by Ben Hillier. The sound design and additional music was by Pascal Wyse.