On 19 June 2015, the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/69/293) proclaimed 19 June of each year the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world and to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.
The date was chosen to commemorate the adoption on 19 June 2008 of Security Council resolution 1820 (2008), in which the Council condemned sexual violence as a tactic of war and an impediment to peacebuilding.
Survivors of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Women and their Children
On the international day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict, we strive to foster solidarity with survivors who endure multiple, intersecting stigmas in the wake of sexual violence, including the stigma of association with an armed or terrorist group, and of bearing children conceived through rape by the enemy. Often, the women and children are viewed as affiliates, rather than victims, of armed and violent extremist groups. Children may be left stateless, in a legal limbo, and susceptible to recruitment, radicalization, trafficking and exploitation, with wider implications for peace and security, as well as human rights. The issue of children born of war has been missing from both the international human rights framework and from peace and security discourse, rendering them a voiceless category of victims.
Cross Generational Effects
The effects of conflict-related sexual violence echo across generations, through trauma, stigma, poverty, poor health and unwanted pregnancy. Children, whose existence emanates from that violence, have been labelled “bad blood” or “children of the enemy,” and are alienated from their mother’s social group. Children conceived through rape in wartime often struggle with issues of identity and belonging for decades after the end of war. They are rarely accepted by society, and unsafe abortion remains a leading cause of maternal mortality in conflict-affected settings.
The stigma associated with sexual violence can have life-long, and sometimes lethal, repercussions for both survivors and children conceived through rape. Socioeconomic reintegration support, aimed to alleviate stigma and mend the social fabric, should therefore infuse all post-conflict reconstruction and recovery efforts.
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“Sameera” (not her real name) is among the Rohingya refugees now sheltering in the crowded camps of the Cox’s Bazar region in south-eastern Bangladesh. The 17-year-old had only been married for a couple of months when her husband was killed. She was raped just days after his death, when three soldiers showed up at her door, together with two other Rohingya girls, who were also raped. “As I will give birth to the baby, he or she will be mine, no matter who the father is,” she told the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Since August, more than 16,000 babies have been born in the refugee camps, according to the UN agency. It is difficult to determine exactly how many were conceived through rape, said Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Read more in the feature story "UN mobilizes in Rohingya camps to support babies born of rape; young mothers face stigma."
Why do we mark International Days?
International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. More information available here.