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

We cannot allow this already underreported crime to slip further into the shadows. Perpetrators must be punished. Investment in recovery from the [COVID] pandemic must tackle the root causes of sexual and gender-based violence.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

The impact of COVID-19 on survivors of conflict-related sexual violence

The chronic underreporting of conflict-related sexual violence, due to stigma, insecurity, fear of reprisals, and lack of services, has been compounded by COVID-19 containment measures. Lockdowns, curfews, quarantines, fears of contracting or transmitting the virus, mobility restrictions, and limited access to services and safe spaces, as shelters closed and clinics were repurposed for the pandemic response, added a layer of complexity to existing structural, institutional and sociocultural barriers to reporting.

Proactive measures to foster an enabling environment for survivors to safely come forward and seek redress have become more urgent than ever.

The pandemic has laid bare the intersecting inequalities that plague our societies, as compounded by conflict, displacement, and institutional fragility. The only solution for these overlapping ills is an injection of political resolve and resources equal to the scale of the challenge.

Cover image of the 2021 Report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence
Fact-sheet info-graphic from the 2021 Report of the SG on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. Data is derived from the annual report and is related to the following topics: Sexual violence in conflict-affected settings; in post-conflict settings; and Other situations.
Cover image of the 2021 Report of the Team of Experts on conflict-related sexual violence

 

Building back better

Building back better in the wake of this pandemic requires an inclusive, intersectional, and gender-informed approach. Pandemic recovery demands a paradigm shift: to silence the guns; amplify the voices of women, girls and all survivors; move boldly towards gender equality and address the root causes of conflict; invest in public welfare rather than the instruments of warfare, by reducing military expenditure and strengthening institutions; and shift the security paradigm to foster human security and the resilience of individuals and communities to social, environmental and economic shocks.

 

Promoting a new social contract

A gender-responsive global recovery from COVID-19 should not aim for a return to the pre-pandemic status quo, but instead promote a new social contract in which no one in power is above the law, and no one rendered powerless is beneath the protection of the law, with the ultimate goal of achieving true equality and justice. It entails decisive action to mitigate risks and prevent sexual violence, and to ensure that no one is left behind in the response.

Responses must be comprehensive, multisectoral, age-appropriate and survivor-centered, including life-saving medical care, sexual and reproductive health services, psychosocial support, livelihood assistance, socioeconomic reintegration support, and access to justice. Service coverage must reach survivors in rural, remote and border areas, as well as in refugee and displacement settings (S/2021/312).

 

 

2021 Event (virtual) — "Building back better: Supporting survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in the context of pandemic recovery"

2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT
Thursday, 17 June 2021
UN WebTV live webcast
Invitation card
Concept Note and Programme

 

Commemorating the 7th official observance, this year's virtual 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 on the frontlines, often at great personal risk, particularly in the current climate of intersecting crises. The event will provide a platform for strategic reflection on ways to integrate the specific rights, needs and perspectives of survivors of CRSV into national and regional COVID-19 response and recovery plans, to ensure they are not forgotten in a climate of intersecting crises and constrained resources.

 

 

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)

 

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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 14 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.

A crowd of women sitting and laughing

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.