Young women are seated indoors in a large circle
Awareness raising session at UN Women Multi-Purpose Women’s Centres. Empowerment, participation and leadership; a Rohingya Refugee Programme in Bangladesh.
Photo:UN Women/Khaled Arafat Ahmed

Conflict-related sexual violence as a self-standing threat to collective security

In 2021, continued recourse to military rather than diplomatic and political means led to displacement on a significant scale, exposing civilians to heightened levels of sexual violence. Rising inequality, increased militarization, reduced civic space and the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons also contributed, among other factors, to fuelling widespread and systematic conflict-related sexual violence, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Women peacebuilders and human rights defenders were often specifically targeted, including through sexual violence and harassment as a form of reprisal, in order to exclude them from public life. Activists and advocates working to highlight the plight and defend the rights of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, and to support their access to justice and services, were also subjected to reprisals and intimidation.

cover of 2022 Secretary-General's report

Report of the United Nations Secretary-General

Conflict-related sexual violence
S/2022/272
29 March 2022
The present report covers the period from January to December 2021 as requested by the Security Council.

Sexual violence in the context of COVID-19

Sexual violence further impeded women’s livelihood activities, against the backdrop of economic shocks and poverty driven by protracted conflict and pandemic-related restrictions. These trends emerged at a time when the global public health crisis as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) had already diminished humanitarian access and diverted resources away from life-saving services to address gender-based violence and deeply affecting survivors, in particular displaced women and girls. Military spending outpaced investment in pandemic-related health care in fragile and conflict-affected countries (see S/2021/827).

Women’s protection advisers

The deployment of women’s protection advisers, who are responsible for convening the monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence in the field, has ensured more timely, accurate and reliable information and helped to overcome the dearth of data that is often used as a pretext for inaction. Deepening the evidence base requires sustained political resolve and resources. To date, the Security Council has called for the deployment of women’s protection advisers in the mandate authorizations and renewals of nine peace operations.

 

2022 Event

Prevention as Protection
Enhancing structural and operational prevention of conflict-related sexual violence

10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EDT
Friday, 17 June 2022
Trusteeship Council, UNHQ, New York
UN WebTV live webcast
Invitation card
Concept Note and Programme

 

Commemorating the 8th official observance, this year's event is co-hosted by the Office of the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Office of the SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict and the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations.

The purpose of the event is to stand in solidarity with the survivors, and those working to support them, to ensure they are not forgotten in a climate of intersecting crises, pandemic recovery, and constrained resources. . In addition, a new Framework for the Prevention of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, developed through consultations across the UN Action network, will be launched during the event.

Background

Definition and prevalence

The term “conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation.

A consistent concern is that fear and cultural stigma converge to prevent the vast majority of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence from coming forward to report such violence. Practitioners in the field estimate that for each rape reported in connection with a conflict, 10 to 20 cases go undocumented.

UN Resolutions

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.

In response to the rise in violent extremism, the Security Council adopted resolution S/RES/2331 (2016), the first to address the nexus between trafficking, sexual violence, terrorism and transnational organized crime. Acknowledging sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism, it further affirmed that victims of trafficking and sexual violence committed by terrorist groups should be eligible for official redress as victims of terrorism.

Resources

  • General Assembly resolution establishing the International Day (A/RES/69/293)

Reports of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence

Other reports

Publications

Related websites

Watch

"If you look at the history of war, and the conflicts around the world, and time immemorial, sexual violence has been used in every war as a tactic of war" - Pramila Patten (Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict)

 

"I got my smile back when I understood that the world needed me." - Tatiana’s Story: Music that Heals

Listen

Awake at Night podcast masthead

Awake at Night S3-Episode 26: It Breaks Your Heart to Hear About the Brutality

"I have not worn these dresses again. I can't wear them. There's too much pain..." - Pramila Patten interviewed by Melissa Fleming (Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications)

Exhibition

painting of woman with gloved hand over mouth

‘Horror and hope’ runs through youth exhibit on sexual violence in conflict

women demonstrating

United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict (UN Action) brings together 21 UN entities with the goal of ending sexual violence during and in the wake of armed conflict.

Launched in 2007, it represents a concerted effort by the UN to ‘deliver as one’ – improving coordination and accountability, amplifying advocacy and supporting country-level efforts to prevent conflict-related sexual violence and respond more effectively to the needs of survivors.

 

Pramila Patten addresses the Security Council

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict serves as the UN spokesperson and political advocate on conflict-related sexual violence. She chairs the UN Action and her work is supported by the UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law/Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The office was established in 2009 and Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten was appointed in 2017. She succeeds Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura and Ms. Margot Wallström.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks 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. We also mark other UN observances.