Shift Shame, Stigma from Victims to Perpetrators of Sexual Violence in Conflict, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Panel Commemorating International Day

DSG/SM/983-OBV/1633
21 June 2016

Shift Shame, Stigma from Victims to Perpetrators of Sexual Violence in Conflict, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Panel Commemorating International Day

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks at an event marking the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, observed on 19 June, in New York, today:

Thank you all for joining us here today to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

I thank the Government of Argentina for co-hosting this discussion on justice and accountability for crimes of sexual violence.  I want to personally and warmly welcome my former colleague on the thirty-eighth floor, the Chef de Cabinet, now Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra.  I know from several years of close cooperation and deep friendship how sincerely and passionately engaged she is in fighting sexual violence in all forms.

I would also like to acknowledge the courageous action, advocacy and commitment of my friends and colleagues, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura, and Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

In conflicts around the world, women and girls, men and boys, are subjected to horrendous acts of sexual violence.  These acts, rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, and sexual torture, constitute abhorrent violations of human rights and human dignity.

[On] June 19, 2008, the international community decided to take action to elevate conflict-related sexual violence to the international peace and security agenda.  This was done through the adoption of Security Council resolution 1820 [2008].  I remember those years that we saw more and more that sexual violence was used as a method of warfare and it was indeed appropriate to bring to the attention of the Security Council.

Last year, the General Assembly decided to commemorate this breakthrough.  The intention was to help to break the silence that so often surrounds these heinous crimes, by designating June 19 as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

This day reminds us of our mission.  We must stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors of sexual violence and we must support those working on the frontlines to fight this scourge.

Together, we must give priority to prevention and early response efforts.  We must deliver comprehensive assistance.  We must shift the shame and stigma from the victims to those who command, those who commit, or those who condone these crimes.

A critical aspect of this work is to hold the perpetrators accountable for their acts.  Accountability is a powerful deterrent as well as a moral duty to those afflicted.  No one should think that that they can come out of this without accountability.

Sexual violence is unique in often stigmatizing the victim, rather than the perpetrator of the crime.  We must take this into account as we design support for survivors.  Social and economic reintegration support is imperative.  Children born of rape need particular attention.

We must also give support for men and boys who have suffered sexual violence and live with life-long traumas.  And our preventive action must pay attention to the vulnerability of refugees and displaced people, who may be trafficked for sexual exploitation.

This kind of open dialogue can help to end the stigma and silence that shields the perpetrators of sexual violence and further victimizes the survivors.

We must meet the new challenges on the horizon and keep the searchlight of international scrutiny on these crimes, which have been ignored for far too long.

I look forward to hearing from our distinguished panellists, particularly on how to convert cultures of impunity into cultures of deterrence.  Basically, let us recall that this commemoration is about decisively and forcefully rejecting all forms of sexual violence and about defending and preserving human dignity.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.